Branded communication is much more than a logo slapped on a brochure or a website. Brand is the experiential and emotional connection to your prospects and tenants. Creative Bloq calls 2015 the “human brand era” — making brand owners responsible for listening to the world around them and delivering a more personal experience for end users.
From your logo to your building interiors, every action and every detail in an environment communicates something about your brand — impacting staff and tenant perceptions. When you think about your brand positioning, consider this the sum total of all the elements that define the benefits of the brand. This includes your staff, pricing, advertising, uniforms, leasing experience, website and your signage.
Architectural signage is a key component of an effective wayfinding plan, but your plan should be about more than just signage. In built environments, wayfinding includes the use of architectural elements — both structural features and open spaces.
Signs as a capital consideration might seem trivial, but if you are counting on drive-by appeal or helping tenants navigate the grounds, they are one of the most important aspects of marketing your community. This method of “on the street” marketing is one nondigital way of capturing the attention of your prospects as well as directing tenants or city services on property.
Identity and place-making signs are also great ways to add impact — providing a strong sense of “you are here” by differentiating a space or place from others. These express the uniqueness of the place and inspire, engage, connect and call users to action.
We don’t often give signage the attention it deserves. Think about it. There are thousands of people who have never been to your door. Your sign is the first impression being made on prospective tenants. Often, people judge the quality of your business on that first impression. So, what is your sign saying to them? Is it a blur of crowded text and graphics, illegible to drivers?
A creative, attractive monument can help your business stand apart from the competition. Signs create awareness of your location, reinforce your brand and drive prospective tenants to the leasing office. Signs are your silent salesperson who works 24 hours a day, seven day a week. And they are essential to your marketing strategy.
Sign types: Exterior signs can be ground-mounted or building-mounted (blade, pole, roof). Ground-mounted signs can take on a variety of shapes and sizes and are typically placed near a road to attract the attention of passing motorists. Building-mounted signs are attached to the place of business and may be useful in areas where foot traffic is common, such as an urban community.
Benefits: For communities that have limited funds, signs can be cost-effective marketing. According to the SBA website, the cost-per-thousand (a common method used to measure the cost of reaching a thousand potential customers) is much lower for signage than other types of advertising, such as radio, televisions and newspapers.
ADA compliance: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires state and local governments, businesses and nonprofit organizations to provide goods, services and programs to people with disabilities. ADA requires that covered multifamily dwellings be designed and constructed with accessible features:
- The public and common use areas must be readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities
- All doors designed to allow passage into and within all premises of covered dwellings must be sufficiently wide for persons with disabilities
Sign ordinances and permits: Local regulations might aim to limit proliferation of offensive or oversized signs and protect public safety. Generally, these ordinances are helpful because municipalities want their businesses to be successful, but occasionally the replacement of an existing sign or proposed new sign doesn’t conform to the ordinance and requires a variance from the plan commission, council or town board.
Legibility: Signs that attract attention must be visible and readable. No one would install a sign behind a tree, but putting it near trees or shrubs that will overgrow it will limit its effective life as well. A study conducted by the Small Business Development Corp. suggests that signs placed on typical local streets where the speed limit is 25 mph, can be as small as 25 square feet but should be 12 feet high to be readable. Signs placed along a freeway where speed limits exceed 55 mph requires an area between 300 and 450 square feet with 74 to 90 feet of height to be noticed.
Creativity: Use thought-provoking ideas to change consumer perceptions. Be active to make signage extend the brand. Choose fonts for your sign that are easy to read, and do not use more than two fonts in the entire sign. If possible, pick fonts that are consistent with the theme of your business.
Materials: There are so many material options for signage, only limited by vendors’ imagination and your budget. Do you want your community to have a night presence? Consider aluminum cabinets with LED panels that use photocells that respond to natural lighting. Do you want a contemporary, but long-lasting structure? Try using Corten steel which patinas over time, adding a contemporary rustic charm to your entrance. Are you marketing an A-plus community? Granite and stone might be the right look. You can even achieve the look of masonry structures at a reduced rate. Possibly a stone veneer or spray stone option will refresh a tired monument at a fraction of the cost of real stone.
Signage is a great way to increase your community’s drive-by appeal.
In the fourth part of this series, we’ll look at how to use online marketing to promote your community.
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