I was recently shown an image of the sign for the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It's fantastic! In fact, it's so fantastic that folks talk about how cool the sign is in the same way they talk about the place itself (which is a wonderful throwback to the Wild West). I theorize that perhaps that sign is part of the reason why the Cowboy Bar has been around since 1937.
Seeing this sign triggered a thought: I think we need a sign revolution. I mean, think about all the lackluster and annoying signs out there... You know what 80% of them are? A missed opportunity.
I think the error comes from two areas:
1.) The owner's thinking that money can be better used somewhere other than the sign.
2.) The owner's singular-focused desire for the sign: "We just need to be noticed from the street!"
The problem with error #1 is obvious and not really worth discussing: boring signs don't get noticed. But the problem with error #2 may not be as obvious...
Being "noticed from the street" typically means using bright colors and big fonts. But just being big and bright doesn't cut it. As consumers we blatantly ignore such stuff because big and bright isn't endearing or welcoming, but rather intrusive and repellent. (Russell has captured a fantastic example of this here.)
More important than being big and bright is that the sign extends (and for some introduces) the brand experience. If that's achieved the sign goes way beyond just getting noticed. It becomes memorable. It gives an intriguing taste for what's inside. And it does its job not only when you're driving by, but long after you've gone.
My advice: When putting up a sign, get as creative and courageous as local community ordinances allow. It doesn't need to be big, it just needs to be an idea: Use intricate neon, use funky light bulbs, use interesting metal work, use wonderful color, make it flash, make it rotate, make it blink. Use words and phrases like "world famous," "the original," "it's fun!" and maybe even "welcome!" It's counter-intuitive, but doing so actually makes the sign more endearing. Do whatever fits with your brand, just invest in it. Hire someone like these guys.
When it comes to signage, consider:
- the number of customers that pass by the sign everyday
- the number of times current employees pass by the sign
- the number of news crews and writers that pass by the sign
- the number of bloggers and photographers who pass by the sign
A company's sign is a source of pride and an opportunity to convey the feeling of what's inside.
And if it's lackluster, it simply becomes a missed opportunity.