November 21, 2014

6 things to learn about exterior signage from your competitors


When it comes to competitive intelligence, exterior signage is a no-brainer. Let me set the scene. Your company is changing its brand, and you are responsible for overseeing the brand change on exterior signage at corporate facilities. Even though rebranding isn’t normally your responsibility, in addition to selecting and managing sign vendors, your input is wanted on brand treatments developed by your company’s branding agency for exterior signage.

A 2012 study by the University of Cincinnati entitled “The Economic Value of On-Premise Signage” highlighted the importance of making educated decisions about exterior signage.

  • Roughly 60 percent of businesses reported increases averaging 10 percent on sales, transactions and profits.
  • Sign changes had a positive impact on employment, with nearly 25 percent of respondents hiring more people.
  • Exterior signage helped customers find their locations, so legibility was key.

You can learn a lot about brand treatments by looking at your competitors’ exterior signage. Here are 6 things we point out to our clients during competitive analyses:

1. Durability. Nothing looks worse than an old, dilapidated sign. While working with a retail brand recently, a competitor on the same street was part of our signage assessment. The competitor’s signs were old and in bad shape, which meant our client’s new exterior signage would really impress shoppers.

2. Visibility. As they say in real estate – location, location, location. Exterior signage placed in the wrong locations inhibits visibility and wastes money. Look at the placement of competitors’ signs to see what works, and just as importantly, what doesn’t work, to understand the best placements for your own exterior signage.

3. Construction/technology. Check out the type of construction and technology used by competitors. For example, are their signs easy to read from a block away at night? Choosing a brand treatment that is comparable to or better than the competition is important.

4. Brand Compliance. Is the branding on your competitors’ exterior signage consistent with other branding? For instance, are logos on buildings horizontal while everything else is vertical? Do the colors match? Because exterior signage decisions usually get passed on to facilities managers, who may be unfamiliar with corporate brand standard guidelines, competitors may be hurting their own brands by installing non-brand compliant signs. Don’t repeat their mistakes.

5. Legibility. Can you make out the letters, numbers, logos, and words on your competitors’ signs? If you can’t read your competitors’ signs, neither can customers. Make sure your own exterior signage is easy for the general public to read.

6. Quality. The quality level of exterior signage must be outlined in the brand standards guidelines. A high-quality brand would never choose low-quality signs as part of the corporate brand strategy, yet poorly executed exterior signage may slip through the cracks if oversight is lacking. When selecting a sign vendor, high quality work should be at the top of your list.

Take a few hours to check out your competitors’ exterior signage before making decisions about your own. It will be time well spent!