What’s in a name?

I am no brand expert, yet there are times when I talk to (especially small) business owners, that I cannot understand their logic when it comes to promoting their brand. This is essentially when they place ALL their emphasis on their name, and none what-so-ever on what their prospective clients would recognize and look for – the products or services they offer.

 I have had clients request vehicle signage with NO contact details – why would ANYONE do that? I was also once told by a client that his business is NOT Coke, so it makes no difference if people recognise the business name or not, as long as they purchase the products and services his business has to offer.

While I cannot totally agree with this comment , I do believe it has some validity, especially when taken in context of the following signs.

 As can be seen, the two competing pathologists signs are on the same wall, directing people to the same destination (their offices are in fact next door each other). However, the top sign, while displaying the business’s name, has an easier to recognise description (BLOOD TESTS), advising people that this is the way to go for blood tests.

I am sure a fair number of people may know who LANCET LABORATORIES are (they are apparently the largest player in the South African market), and may even know what PATHOLOGISTS do (it says that they are pathologists on the far left of their sign – not clearly visible in the photo), I am sure a LOT MORE people recognise what BLOOD TESTS are, as that is what (the service) they are looking for. I can only wonder how many people looking for blood tests at Lancet have gone to Ampath instead of Lancet, simply because they followed the signs.

To me this is a simple, but exceptionally effective example of how the supplier’s name can (and sometimes should) take a back seat to the description of the product and or services that are being offered.

While at the end of the day it is the client’s decision what will appear (as the saying goes: “he who pays, says”) I do believe it is the responsibility of EVERY PROFESSIONAL SIGN MAKER to advise their clients as to the best way to ensure that their clients signage spend has the potential to achieve a return on investment. Sometimes that may mean something simple like adding contact details, or an explanation of what the business does.

Arnold N. Pollak

SignForce (Pty) Ltd

South Africa



+ 27 11 444 3331

Beware of that ‘Angle’

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. The attached photo’s give a good indication of the point I will be making below about how your sign can be perceived when viewed from an unintended abgle . I received these in an email titles “the wrong angle”.

Have you ever looked at your business sign from an angle that is different to the way you normally see it, and if so, does the message change? (and I am not referring to holographic signs)

Too often I find myself looking at business signs from the ‘wrong’ angle
– that is, any angle that is not directly from the front – definitely not the angle the ‘owner’ intended the sign to be viewed.

Personally I find this a topic I am interested because I am involved in the sign business, and also because, being a person who looks at signs as an investment – the ultimate ‘silent salesperson’ – and investments as psychological decisions, I am fascinated at how seldom businesses see their signs as anything more than a grudge purchase that will ONLY be seen from the front, thus negating the work of the sign and totally ignoring the psychological message this sign, this perceived ‘grudge purchase’, will be conveying to all potential walk in customers .

I do believe that generally a sign, especially in front of a shop, will be viewed from the side BEFORE it is viewed from the front, and yet, there are very few signs that take advantage of the side view, possibly believing that the colour or shape alone will provide brand recognition. Unless your business is Coke or on the world top ten list of recognised brands, this is highly unlikely.

Even more disconcerting than not taking advantage of the side view, is having a side view that distracts from the sign’s intended message, or reads totally different from the intended meaning when viewed from an ‘incorrect’ angle.

I recommend that all sign buyers strive to get their message projected from the side as well as from the front, and also, whether taking advantage of the side view or not, make sure that the side view of their signs are tidy and do not show all the workings of the sign, as these can be unsightly and distract from the sign’s intended message.

The ‘Marketing’ Race!

Listening to Guerilla PA by Michale Livine what became evident is the large array of activities that are, and can be, considered as PR and Marketing. Reading the SBI blog article on the value of exposure, and SKYWRITING it became even more evident that the only limits in marketing (and PR?) in the world we live in today, are self imposed.

It seems that the more technology makes inroads into our lives, and the ‘faster’ life seems to become, the more outrageous our efforts ‘need’ to become in order for them to get noticed. (Or is this just something we are led to believe?)

It is because of this trend to keep abreast with the ‘LATEST’ technology, to try improve on our last effort and to keep ahead of the ‘pack’, that we tend to look for more and more outrageous methods in order to get seen.

HOWEVER, what if there is a different way. What if SIGNS remain ‘simple’? Would the signs get noticed?

I believe they would.

In his book “Stealth Marketing”, Jay L. Abraham, a brilliant marketing mind, works on the assumption (one of many) that people will only notice an advertisement IF or WHEN they are interested in the product or service being advertised. Now many advertising agencies would argue against this, but to me, what Mr. Abraham proposes makes sense.

Using similar logic I propose that a GREAT SIGN is a sign that stands out, a sign that stands in stark contrast to it’s surroundings with the ‘message’ on the sign contrasting well with the backing of the sign.

At SignForce we have a vast knowledge of marketing which we use to give our client’s idea’s that are cost effective, give a return on investment (ROI) and STAND OUT, sometimes only because of their simplicity. Our philosophy is an extension of the KISS principle. We operate on the basis that generally, the simpler the sign and the greater the contrast, the more likely the sign is to be noticed, and thus the more likely the sign will have a positive ROI.

Arnold N. Pollak

SignForce (Pty) LTD (South Africa)



SIGN yourself out of a recession!

I recently read a comment on the Sign Builder Illustrated blog
(http://www.signshop.com/sbi-blogs/entry/decreasing-revenue-increasing-branding.html) about how some regulations MAY be relaxed in certain locations, allowing new signage to be erected in previously restricted public area’s, with the intention of generating work for sign businesses, and income for the administrators and communities.

This got me thinking. Why not use signage – I believe it IS
possible to use signage – to stimulate your business’s ‘economy’.

While I am not saying that signage can stimulate EVERY business,
historical statistics show that SIGNAGE SELLS – and there is a lot of
truth in the saying ‘a business without a sign is a sign of NO BUSINESS‘.

While the historical data I am aware of is ALL for retail
business’s, SignForce’s experience has shown first hand the
benefits of having our vehicles signed, as well as having signs all
around our neighborhood directing traffic to our premises.

SignForce’s own signs have helped to direct prospects to our
premises, resulting in multiple sales, and as importantly, creating
the IMPRESSION that SignForce IS the sign company in the area.

New or revised or moved signs tend to be noticed better than old
or static or tired signs, in other words, signs that look new keep YOUR BUSINESS front of mind – and you only have to look to Coke to see the cost of slipping out of that ‘front of mind’ position.

If your business could do with additional sales, then it may well
be time for you to think of the possibilities of how new signs COULD
benefit YOUR business – or, if you are unsure, contact SignForce and we will gladly
assist you.

Arnold N Pollak



Who should be in charge of policing your brand’s identity?

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.