Who should be in charge of policing your brand’s identity?
I was recently involved with a project for a multi national conglomerate, and taking note of the manner in which they requested SignForce and our competitors, all sign companies, to quote, it has made me wonder about who should be responsible for your corporate identity, especially when it comes to signage.
The reason I ask this is that my experience has been that generally, large businesses have large marketing departments, which generally have extensive knowledge and experience with print, media and most other aspects of marketing, yet have little – and sometimes even NO – exposure or experience with signage.
Why I find this interesting is (a) the lack of importance granted to signage, often allocating it to the ‘duress’ decisions awarded very little time and effort, (b) because a businesses signage will often be the first visible marketing that will be seen by people visiting your corporate or business premises and (c) unlike print and media advertising, a sign is not necessarily a sign, or put differently, not all signs are equal. You see, after all these years in the signage industry, I am becoming more and more aware that while price is OFTEN an indication of quality, this is not always the case, possibly because signage is mostly SOLD to the marketing department by one of two means.
The first option is when the marketing department hand the signage company a detailed brief describing the type and quality of material that should be used, and then [mostly] base their decision on delivery deadlines and price, as it is assumed that the brief will be followed to the letter.
The second (and more common option, especially for smaller businesses) is when the marketing department provides a less detailed brief for signage to fill a specific space, and then rely on the ‘artwork’ of the sign company in order to make a decision. The clients decision will then often be based on cost, as well as on the beauty of the drawings that have been received. From our experience and conversations I have had with counterparts around the world, this seems to be standard practice in the industry. The issue here is that the decision maker is invariably making the buying decision based on the emotions that are stirred when viewing the graphics, yet what you see, is not always what you get.
Because there is not necessarily anything in the wording of the quote to make the decision maker believe that there is anything substantially different between the various options, the same logic applies as when faced with purchasing three identical bottles of the same brand of coffee from three different suppliers, we go for the most convenient, or the cheapest.
The difference between purchasing a sign and purchasing a bottle of coffee beans is that the coffee tends to come out of a factory where the process is presumably consistent, so it should make absolutely no difference where the coffee is purchased.
The same is not true for signs, as the majority of signs are unique, and the difference in the manufacturing process and the parts used can make a huge difference to the initial cost, life and cost over the life of a sign.
Case in point #1. A prospect does a little research, using the Internet and talking to references and then decides to call in three different, hopefully equally reputable signage businesses, who are all full service businesses that do the work in-house. The prospect hands all three businesses the same brief for internally illuminated signage and waits for the quotes. In this instance no artwork is required as the client is providing it. The quotes arrive and the prospect reviews the wording and costs. The first quote comes in at X. The second quote is X-10, and the third quote is X+30. The easiest way to show this is for internally illuminated signs. If the sign uses florescent lighting, there are new, energy saving ballasts, or the old magnetic, heat generating ballasts. The difference been that the old type of florescent lighting uses a ‘magnetic’ ballast that costs x, with a starter and holder that costs x/4, and the tube costs x. Total cost for the initial purchase is 2&1/4x. Invariably, what you will not be told is that the expected life of this illumination method is less than 10,000 hours, and that there is no guarantee on the parts.
ON the other hand the monthly running costs for the electronic ballast is around 1/5 of the magnetic ballast. The new, energy saving florescent ballast operates with an electronic ballast, has no starter and has an expected, maintenance free life of between 12,000 and 20,000 hours. However, while the cost of the tube is x, the cost of the ballast is approximately 2X, making the initial cost 3X. Hence the initial cost of the more efficient lighting is MUCH higher (3 vs 2&1/4), but the running cost of the new ballast is approximately ¼ of the running cost of the magnetic ballast, and the maintenance costs are also MUCH lower.
Of course, there is VERY little chance that the decision maker will know this, as they will generally only be informed that the sign is internally illuminated using florescent lights, and when they see that the one sign is more costly than the other, the natural assumption is that they are comparing apples to apples, and the difference is because one business is making a greater profit than the other.
Case in point #2. The decision maker receives beautiful pictures from all three businesses, and looking at the quality of the pictures – and the costs – makes the decision to purchase. Once again the decision maker has no idea what quality material is being used to manufacture the sign, and hence, their decision and reputation is in the hands of (a) the best sales person and / or (b) the best artist, not necessarily two people you want to trust with your career and the future of your business.
As a side, experience has also shown that the real cost of the sign is not necessarily in the initial purchase of the sign itself, but rather in the after sale service and honoring of guarantees that may be necessary if the signage fails. Experience has also shown that the decision maker VERY seldom understands the ability of the requested materials to do the required job properly, and they also seldom understand the difference between material thicknesses, so when, for example a 3mm material has been requested, but a 2mm material is used, VERY few decision makers will be any the wiser.
Of course, there is an alternative. That is to get in an impartial SIGNAGE CONSULTANT who, like an Architect or a good Quantity Surveyor, understands the manufacturing process, has extensive knowledge of almost ALL the materials used in signage, knows the underlying costs and is well aware of the various questions that should be asked – and the short cuts that need to be avoided. At SignForce – we have combined experience in excess of 40 years in marketing with over 20 years in specializing in signage. Why not let us take the hassle out of the signage. We will happily guide your marketing team through the entire process, from compiling the brief to suggesting the appropriate supplier and overseeing the final installation.