Controlling your brand image through proper signage maintenance.
Some of the most important assets for any retail business are those that promote a company’s brand image. A company’s branded assets usually consist of signs, point of purchase and internal merchandising units. Many companies find that effective and orderly management of their brand in the retail environment can be a difficult challenge. Identifying issues with regard to consistency, maintenance, value and control of brand image will help to provide some realistic solutions to the problems your company may be facing.
First, examine the consistency of your brand. All locations should offer the same storefront appeal and be consistent from location to location, so that your customer will relate that storefront to a general experience within the store. Introducing a branding manual with complete specifications gives you a common standard that all stores should be held accountable to following.
Once a branding standard is set and agreed upon, centralizing the specifications for the use of the brand to one resource is the key to success. This resource will keep the focus on brand integrity. Keeping your branding standard centralized will assist in ensuring that all suppliers have access to the correct specifications and will allow work to be checked upon completion to ensure compliance of the branding standards. This should be done for all work, from simple service jobs to new store construction. Consistent branding standards not only appeal to your customer’s recognition, but create the image that you want your company to portray to the world.
Once you have a branding manual in place, take a look at your signage maintenance strategy. The maintenance and upkeep of your signage assets can make or break your company. Keeping your brand functioning and maintained will help your brand image stay on top. It is of vital importance that your branding manual is shared with those that are handling your maintenance as well as those dealing with new construction. By sharing the branding manual across your company, you raise awareness of the importance of your brand to everyone across your organization. Corporate officers, as well as store management, should be aware of what your brand expectations are.
After your new signage is installed, you must continue to manage it throughout its entire lifecycle. It is much like purchasing a new car. When you get a new car, you have the pride of ownership when you first drive it down the street. While the car is new it will run well and look good, but only for a period of time. Without the necessary maintenance and regular cleaning it can soon become a car that you would not want anyone to see you driving in. That same maintenance and cleaning is needed to keep your sign functioning while maintaining your brand image.
Having a maintenance strategy and well thought out maintenance budget in place will be the key to making sure that your signage is well maintained and brand image is presented in a positive manner through the life cycle of your sign. With this being said, make sure that when you are purchasing a new sign that you are looking into the possible costs of maintaining that signage for the next 7 to 10 years. While it is nice to have a sign that is extravagant and overly eye catching, you may not have the budget to maintain that sign and replace expensive parts for the years to come. Choose a sign that you can afford to maintain. Once you have a maintenance strategy and affordable budget in place, the maintenance of your signage will prove to be the most valuable tool in making decisions regarding your future branding needs.
After you have a maintenance budget in place, you will want to make sure that you continue to get the best value for your spend. Many companies simply do not know if they are getting the best value for their money. It is recommended that for every job — whether maintenance work or new construction — you go through a three-quote process to assess your overall spending, schedule and quality concerns. It is much like a claim placed with an insurance company. In the past when you had an insurance claim they may have asked you to obtain three quotes and provide them with this information. This ensured that the insurance company was paying out as little as possible for the same valuable service being provided. Your centralized branding manual will be used as a quality control measure to dictate the exact specifications that are to be used for manufacturing and installation for each quote obtained. You are able to look at the information from each local supplier and determine which one will perform the work needed for the most valuable savings.
Lastly, you will want to look at how you are tracking and controlling your brand image. Many companies have no record of what signage they have at each location. There is no history of maintenance work performed and this will lead to a shorter life expectancy of your signage due to neglect and will pose a risk to your company, leading to personal or property damage claims due to sign malfunction. It is so important to put into effect a centralized database with site details that track all aspects of your branding.
This database should track the types of signs that are at each location along with the dates the signs were installed. It should allow you to record a work history of maintenance work carried out on each sign. In addition, being able to identify signs where no maintenance has been carried out should raise a red flag allowing you to take a closer look to make sure that this signage poses no threat to its surroundings, while also making sure that this untouched sign is still clean and presenting a positive brand image to your customers.
Keeping a centralized database will allow you to make better quality decisions about your branding. In the event of a regional or national reimage you will not have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars surveying all of your locations to decide what to do and where to start. Your centralized database will be able to pull reports, produce budgets and answer questions regarding your branding in a matter of minutes. Having this key information at your fingertips is powerful when it comes to making quick decisions.
Remember, your brand image is important. Signage needs to be consistent throughout all of your locations and must be well maintained to keep your image strong. You need to make sure you are protecting your company’s spending by insuring you are getting the best value for your spend and that you are tracking and controlling that spend along the way. It is not impossible to have an affordable brand image if you always maintain and plan appropriately for your future branding needs.
— Austin Cope is project manager for Seattle-based Signmanager. Signmanager Inc. is made up of independent consultants that act on their client’s behalf to procure and manage their global branding requirements for the life cycle of the brand in the retail environment.