Tuesday, 9 November 2010

What marketers can learn from road signs

My route into work is currently plagued by road works. After a summer of pot holes, they are resurfacing the road just in time for this year’s snow and ice. So I get to notice all sorts of things as I wait for the cars in front of me to move.

The other day I noticed a little sign for a local village fete. Upton and Somewhere. Sometime in November. A Saturday I think. It was a beautifully printed coloured flyer lovingly enclosed in plastic and tied to a lamp post. Someone had thought carefully about how much traffic passed by, and strategically positioned the advertisement for maximum viewing.

The trouble is, that’s all they thought about.

It was printed on A4 in tiny type and placed close to ground level. Whilst I noticed the notice, I couldn’t possibly read it. Not without causing an accident and even more delays.

Just a few feet away was another sign. This was about 6 feet off the ground and maybe 2 or 3 foot square. It simply says:

Free Recovery Starts Here

Four words on an area many, many times larger than the village fete ad. And you know what? I must have driven past it maybe a dozen times before I noticed it.

This is a stark lesson for all of us involved in marketing. Whilst we lovingly craft our carefully worded emails and web pages about our complicated propositions, our customers are flying past with their minds half on something else entirely. Anyone who has ever been caught speeding knows they may well have seen the sign once or even twice, but didn’t really register what they saw.

So in marketing, we need to ensure our messages are clear; very clear. And repeated - many times. Rather than boring our prospects, we may still not have got their attention.

I counted the number of road signs that warned me to slow down as I approached a village on my route home. The signs appeared 3 or 4 times, and in a number of different ways (30 miles, flashing light bulb thing, 20 mile sign, 20 miles painted on the road). And people still drive too fast.

Of course road signs are there for safety, not to sell anything. But it is sobering to realise how large and flashing and enforceable they have to be before we even notice them. We can’t make our marketing legally enforceable (probably a good thing!) but we can make it stand out.

I’d like to be able to tell the people who are organising the village fete during the cold and windy November, but I have no idea where they are …


  1. Show us a picture of it!

  2. Not sure if you want a picture, or a pile up on the roundabout .... Let me see what I can (safely) do! Good to "meet" you the other day!