April 16, 2013 _ Signs have long been considered one of the most effective forms of advertising for businesses. Recent research, released by the Signage Foundation Inc. (SFI) has confirmed that. Businesses looking to grow and expand should consider:
* The type of sign used has an impact on sales growth. Studies found fast food restaurants that installed a 144-square foot pole sign enjoyed a 15.6% increase in sales. Increases also were seen by those adding monument signs (9.3%), a directory sign (2.5%) and a building sign (1.3%.) “Economic Value of Signs,” (1997) – republished by the Signage Foundation, Inc., in 2013. Seth Ellis, Robert Johnson, Robin Murphy, University of San Diego
* For existing businesses, adding and changing signs can lead to a sales increase. Modifying a building sign and making two minor changes resulted in a 16% weekly sales increase for Pier1 Imports stores. Adding a small directional sign in a shopping center added 10% to the weekly sales totals, while the improvement to a multi-tenant sign in a shopping plaza brought increases of 1% for one sign and 3% for two or more signs.
“Economic Value of Signs,” (1997) – republished by the Signage Foundation, Inc., in 2013. Seth Ellis, Robert Johnson, Robin Murphy, University of San Diego
* Signs help customers find the business. In a survey of consumers, nearly half (49.7%) said they’ve failed to find a business because the sign was small or unclear. For women ages 18-24, nearly two-thirds say this has happened to them. “Longitudinal Analysis of Signage Communication Evidence from the BrandSpark/Better Homes and Gardens American Shoppers Study” (2011 and 2012), conducted by James J. Kellaris, University of Cincinnati College of Business.
* Signs are valuable sources of information to consumers. When consumers were asked to rank various information sources based on usefulness, signage ranked second; only TV ads ranked higher. “Longitudinal Analysis of Signage Communication Evidence from the BrandSpark/Better Homes and Gardens American Shoppers Study” 2011 and 2012, conducted by James J. Kellaris, University of Cincinnati College of Business.
Each year, SFI adds to the growing body of information related to the importance of on-premise signage through peer-reviewed research. Many of the findings are presented at the annual National Signage Research and Education Conference, held in conjunction with the University of Cincinnati’s Colleges of Business and Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP). The 2013 NSREC is scheduled for Oct. 9-10 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Complete studies and scientific research about on-premise signage is available through the Signage Foundation Inc. To learn more, visit the research section at

A Taste of Home Cooking

A Taste of Home Cooking LED Sign

How Will Outdoor Signs Help to Grow Your Business?



If you’re intent on attracting attention to your organization, one of the most effective methods is using outdoor signs for business advertising. Outdoor signs attract customers off the street, indicate where your premises are and show what you do. All-in-all, outdoor signs are cost-effective marketing tools.

What You Communicate With Your Outdoor Sign
The International Sign Association say that outdoor signs should communicate what you are selling or what service you are offering. Their ABCs of signage introduce these concepts:

  • Attract new customers
  • Brand  the business
  • Create impulse sales

In enlarging on these topics, the association states that modern populations often relocate to other parts of the country, and, as you lose consumers for this reason, you need to continually rebuild your customer base. Branding is of extreme importance, whether you are an “infrequent needs” or “frequent or impulse needs” business.

Thousands of Out of Home Advertising Operators Can’t Be Wrong

Statistics from the Outdoor Advertising Association of America state that expenditure on outdoor advertising in 2011 reached over $6 billion. The more than 2,100 registered out of home advertising operators range from multinational media corporations to small, independent, family owned businesses. Many of these companies network with each other, bringing design, manufacture, installation and maintenance services together for the benefit of their customers.

Outdoor Signs for Business Advertising Make the Public Sit Up and Notice

When compared with other advertising media, it is clear that out of home advertising has a distinct advantage.

  • Broadcast and cable television reach smaller audiences due to video on demand services. Viewers have become overwhelmed by advertisements and skip rather than watch them.
  • Radio tends to reach listeners only during peak travel times, and has no visual impact.
  • Newspapers and magazines have niche markets, and are only relevant for short periods.
  • The internet offers huge choices, but there is so much available that lower-profile sites are hardly ever visited. In addition, users have security and privacy concerns.

Well designed outdoor signs reach their target markets and stand out to consumers. For example, an outdoor sign that consumers pass every day as they travel to and from work or school will be noticed and remembered.

Out of home media formats are conventionally split into four categories: billboards, street furniture, transit and alternative. The categories are divided into subcategories, and they cover almost any eventuality, mode of travel, event and venue where the public might gather or pass through. Literally, the sky is the limit.

The Green Side of Outdoor Signs 
An important concern of businesses considering outdoor signage is that of the environment. It is good to know that this has become a solvable issue with outdoor sign manufacturers.

Each year the industry increases the amount of billboard substrates that it recycles. Substrates are the polyethylene sheets upon which the billboard messages are printed. From the 2009 to 2010 the amount of recyclable substrates nearly quadrupled, from one million pounds to 3.7 million pounds. Made from environmentally friendly materials, the substrates are recycled into plastic parts, flower pots and rock netting.

LED signs have also raised question marks, with all stakeholders wondering what would happen to obsolete ordamaged billboards. However, that issue was resolved after a 2011 tornado in St. Louis toppled an enormous digital billboard. Billboard parts were sold to scrap metal recycling depots or reused in new LED billboards; only two percent of components were sent to certified dumping facilities.

Up to now, you may have overlooked the usefulness of outdoor signs for business advertising purposes. If you are serious about growing your business, remember the advantages of this great marketing tool.

Signage 101

Your sign is your voice on the street. It communicates with passing pedestrians and motorists. It convinces them to come through your doors and do business with you.

Did you know?

  • Signage is the least expensive but most effective form of advertising.
  • Signage can be responsible for half of your customers – that’s right, 50 percent!
  • Signage is so important that without it you may not get a loan for your business.
  • Signage is an investment that will pay a return many times over.
  • A well-designed, well-placed sign can generate huge profits, especially when part of an overall marketing strategy.
  • Signage can no longer be an afterthought. Businesses can no longer afford to just “hang up a shingle” or throw up some plywood with painted letters. In order to compete in today’s competitive marketplace, you must think of your sign as a sophisticated, powerful marketing tool. It should work for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, creating the first impression of your business, telling people who you are, where you are and what you offer.

You might be thinking…

  • What are the elements of good signage?
  • What kind of sign do I need?
  • What do I need to know before buying a sign?
  • Where do I get a sign?
  • Where can I find a sign company?
  • How can I reap the benefits of good signage?
  • How can I maximize signage benefits for my business?

ISA can help guide you through the sometimes tricky aspects of finding the right sign for your business.

Make a Good First Impression with Signage

Make a good first impression with signage

Construction and energy costs are rising. Baby Boomers are sporting trifocals. Many Americans can’t read (or, more specifically, can’t read English). Building owners and developers are becoming increasingly aware that creating universally accessible, sustainable, and aesthetically pleasing spaces are basic requirements in today’s competitive marketplace. Buildings that engender an immediate comfort level are clearly the most desirable.

Wayfinding encompasses all of the ways in which people orient themselves in unfamiliar surroundings and find their way from place to place. We’ve all experienced examples of successful wayfinding in spaces that make us feel comfortable and confident from the moment we arrive. Conversely, we’ve all become totally disoriented in dimly lit parking structures, or confused by mazelike corridors.

With new technology and human behavioral studies, wayfinding has evolved significantly, and will continue to do so. In the past, and even today, standard wayfinding programs consisted of signs or plaques, usually in English, mounted to walls or hanging from ceilings. Occasionally, facilities have additional systems in place, like an attended information desk or concierge, which offers the human touch to a possibly daunting experience.

The best wayfinding programs provide a combination of manufactured and human elements to create a guided experience for visitors. Highway or interstate signage, directional signs, and a site monument or building-identification sign can seamlessly guide the new visitor to their destination long before he or she enters the building. Successful interior wayfinding systems integrate architects, interior designers, graphic designers, and wayfinding specialists from the onset to address a project’s total environmental communication. Building owners and facility managers need to specify understandable signage systems that, with appropriate placement, identify, direct, and inform the broadest group of visitors. In some projects, an intentional blurring of those disciplines has helped create an even more integrated environment where, instead of the traditional sign on a wall, the wall is a sign.

Many times, the first impression of a place is not the best experience. One example: A recent renovation project where the initial experience began in a multi-level, underground parking area. The design firm proposed utilizing the architect’s 3-D model of the buildings above grade (see the image on this page). The bird’s-eye-view rendering, combined with a compass-rose graphic, was embedded in the floor in front of the elevator, providing a preview of the buildings above, as well as directional orientation.

People tend to look down first, then up. A combination of information effectively presented on the floor and perpendicularly, and ceiling-mounted signage, capitalizes on natural human tendencies. Up-and-coming lighting technology for signage, such as LEDs, offers significant savings in energy, longer product life, and lower maintenance costs. Universal symbols are also evolving and expanding to provide more inclusive communication for non-English speakers and nonreaders.

Facility managers should stay on top of trends to make sure their signage is up to date, and they should imagine themselves as new visitors to see if their wayfinding program is easily accessible. Remembering who the signage should benefit ensures that tenants and visitors share a positive experience when they visit the facility for the first time.

Kelan Smith is an environmental graphic designer at Design Workshop, a firm that practices landscape architecture, land planning, urban design, and strategic services in Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Texas, and North Carolina.

To Market… or Not To Market… In a Recession

Marketing with SignsWhether a slowdown in the economy has affected your business or not, it’s generally not a good idea to slow down your marketing efforts in a recession. In fact, we have found it is very productive to be more aggressive when others are “cutting back.” But, when sales slump and business owners look for ways to cut expenses, many businesses slash spending on marketing until the economy “gets better.” It is important to remember the main purpose of marketing is to generate qualified leads, and it may be necessary to spend more money, not less, to generate the leads you need. Therefore, it is essential to be consistent in your marketing efforts.

Remember, a good marketing program accomplishes the following:

1. Identifies your target market- who are you selling to?
2. Develops your unique message- what sets you apart from your competition.
3. Delivers the message- gets the word out in an effective manner.
4. Tracks results- what is working well, what could work better.

An effective marketing program does not cost anything net of the business it generates. If you are creative and focused, you can have a good marketing program on any budget. Keep in mind the four components above, and find ways to tweak existing programs or develop new programs to continually keep your marketing machine fine-tuned through good times and bad.

2003 American Business Advisors, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Signs Don’t Cost, They Sell!

Signs: The Bottom Line Courtesy of The International Sign Association
Signs as Advertising

Custom Signs Don't Cost, They Sell
A few years ago, a sign manufacturer performed a study of its clients to find out whether their signs were bringing in customers. The businesses surveyed were a year or less old and the surveys were conducted within 30 to 45 days after the installation of a new sign. Thousands of shoppers were asked, “How did you learn about us?”

The results, shown in Table 1, clearly demonstrate that the signs attracted half of the start-up businesses’ new customers – more than any other form of advertising the businesses used and even more than their word-of-mouth referrals.

Table 1: How did you learn about us?
Number of Customer Responses:
On-Premise Sign 1,234……….50%
Word of Mouth 820………..33%
Newspaper 212………9%
Yellow Pages 139………6%
TV 32……..1%
Radio 38……..1%

Naturally, as a business becomes more established, more of sales will come from repeat customers and fewer will be directly due to the sign. But that does not mean the sign becomes unimportant. On the contrary, a business owner must constantly remind their regular customers that he is there. Even more importantly, studies show that on any given day, as many as 35% of the people passing a business have never seen it before and could become first-time customers because of the on premise sign.

Signs Increase Profits for Your Business

Let’s assume you own a typical family clothing store and add a new, better-designed sign to the business. Here’s how it could impact your bottom line:

Your annual sales $1,757,486.00
Cost of goods sold 61.8%
Gross Profit Margin 38.2%
Operating expenses (includes other expenses of 1.5%) 36.0%
Income taxes (estimated at 35%) 0.8%
Income after taxes 1.4%
After tax profit ($1,757,486.00 x 1.4% or) $24,604.00

A 7% increase in sales created by the addition of a needed sign, without increasing operating expenses, would cause the following change in profit:

New sales at 7% ($1,757,486.00 x .07) $123,024.00
Gross Profit from new sales ($123,024.00 x 38.2% Margin Contribution) $46,995.00
Net Profit (Assumes 35% taxes) $30,547.00
Total Profit (Original Profit $24,604.00 plus New Profit $30,547.00) $55,151.00

With a small, 7% bump in sales your profit could jump from $24,604 to $55,151. That’s an increase of over 124%!

Increasing profits is one way that signs improve your bottom line. Another way is by decreasing expenses.

[1] Figures from The Economic Value of On-Premise Signage, a study conducted by the University of San Diego School of Business Administration.

Cutting Costs

A number of surveys have been conducted before and after installing signage to determine effectiveness. One of these, from late 1996, involved a Los Angeles auto dealership. Three previous auto dealers had failed at the location. The new owner, Aztec Motors, spent much time, energy and money improving the building and lot.

Once renovations were complete, the new owner invested $7,400 in replacement signage that entailed one wall and one double-faced pole sign.

A survey found the new signage, not the renovations or other advertising, was responsible for a minimum of ten new walk-in customers per week, resulting in at least six additional sales per week. I t took less than a month for the new signs to pay for themselves, and the owner was able to reduce his advertising budget from $16,000 to $4,000 per month an annual savings of $144,000.

As part of your advertising you’re probably considering one or more of the following: TV, radio, newspapers, Internet, direct mail, etc. The most basic way to evaluate the cost effectiveness of these or any marketing method is the cost per 1,000 exposures. Here’s how business signs measure up to other media.

The price and life expectancy of signage varies widely depending upon the type, but let’s assume you invested in signage costing $16,500 that should last seven years. If your business is located on a street with 60,000 people passing each day, the cost per 1,000 exposures would be only 11 cents.

The same $16,500 spent on outdoor advertising (i.e.,any sign that is not appurtenant to the use of the property, a product sold, or the sale or lease of the property on which it is displayed) for 1,000 exposures would cost $0.83. A similar expenditure in newspaper advertising would cost you $1.57, while television advertising for 1,000 exposures would cost $6.60.

If you’ll remember from Table 1, only 1% of first-time customers come in because of your television ad. But 50% come in because of your sign. If you’re spending only 11 cents per 1,000 exposures to get that 50%, that’s a good use of your money.