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UC Research Finds Small Signs Lead to Big Frustrations


University of Cincinnati analysis of national consumer survey data on signage as marketing communication finds that signs that are too small or unclear to consumers seem to be a growing national issue.

Date: 10/8/2012 12:00:00 AM
By: Judy Ashton
Phone: (513) 556-7162
Photos By: Lisa Ventre

UC ingot   Signs that are too small or unclear to consumers seem to be a growing national issue, leading some business owners to lose potential customers, according to University of Cincinnati Marketing Professor James Kellaris.

“This persistent, growing national problem is frustrating for consumers and can lead to loss of business and, by extension, loss of tax revenue for the community,” Kellaris said.
UC researcher James Kellaris examines a sign.



Kellaris, the James S. Womack/Gemini Chair of Signage and Visual Marketing in the UC Carl H. Lindner College of Business, will present this research during the October 10 -11 Fourth-Annual National Signage Research & Education Conference (NSREC) in Cincinnati.

Through a UC analysis of a market research survey of North American households, Kellaris found that inadequate signage could be construed as a communication failure.

 “About half the population surveyed in 2011 has driven by and failed to find a business due to signage and communication failure,” he said.

While communication failure affects all groups and ages, the study found that women experience signage communication failure more than men.

Shoppers, Kellaris noted, favor signs that are visible, legible and informative, but those preferences contradict current trends of smaller, more uniform signs, using non-verbal symbols/icons.

Kellaris said that shoppers are drawn to unfamiliar stores based on clear, attractive signs, and that often, these stores convey personality and character as perceived from signage quality.

The resolution, Kellaris says, “is to find the right balance between the interests of shoppers, businesses and the broader interests of the community.”

The National Signage Research & Education Conference (NSREC) is a two-day event at the Kingsgate Marriott Conference Center focusing on the theme: “The Technology of Signage.” Other UC presenters include Jeff Rexhausen, research associate in the Economics Center for Education & Research, and George Vredeveld, professor of economics. They will speak on the topic of “The Economic Value of Signs Research Study.” The conference keynote address will be delivered by UC’s Craig Vogel,  an internationally known designer, educator and author who currently holds an interim appointment as the Terry Fruth/Gemini Chair of Signage Design and Community Planning.