Signs for success from the US to the UK: Thoughts from FASTSIGNS Global CEO, Catherine Monson

January 16, 2020

The US and the UK boast a thriving signage and visual communications sector with exciting new innovations launching each year. But for two countries with such a wide range of similarities, how does the signage sector here in the UK differ to those of our friends across the pond and what can we learn from them? FASTSIGNS Global CEO, Catherine Monson, who is based at the company’s international headquarters in Texas, USA, explains more.

The UK is a fantastic country, and it’s always great to come back and visit it when I meet with the UK network of our FASTSIGNS franchises.

One thing that has always struck me during my trips here, is the minimalist approach to signage the UK has in comparison to us back in the US. This is especially noticeable when it comes to signage choices used on buildings and vehicles, which tends to be more understated in the UK than in the US. In America many businesses opt for more eye-catching choices that maximise the use of all available space to ensure key messages are displayed clearly.

However, this goes further still. During my recent trip to the UK, I was astounded by the lack of graphics, livery or information on many vehicles such as white vans and lorries - something I believe is a missed opportunity to make maximum impact, drive sales and raise awareness. I’ve also spotted quite a number of warehouses that I feel could be using the space as another marketing tool to advertise their brands and their services.

I know many in the UK might think that such a strategy is perhaps a little over the top, but I’d argue that any business that isn’t making use of all their advertising opportunities is potentially hindering their company from attracting, and ultimately winning, new business. This could be anything from your standard interior and exterior displays to floor, window, wall and vehicle graphics.

Although, I do understand that due to their size, which is often smaller than business premises in the US, many businesses may have to adhere to stricter planning regulations with regards to what they can display. This could no doubt, be a reason why many UK businesses opt for more subdued visual displays. To overcome this, UK businesses could perhaps opt for visual communications tools such as interior graphics in the window space instead.

There are also now so many exciting signage innovations entering the market all the time that finding a solution that both adheres to planning regulations and advertises your brand in a clever and eye-catching way, is now so easy to do.

One such innovation is the use of digital signage and digital billboards. Many cities in the UK are already harnessing the power of digital display to advertise key messaging that can be changed with ease and to promote their brand. While I have seen a few examples here in the UK, there is still a real opportunity for UK businesses to start incorporating this into their visual marketing strategies.

The UK signage market has developed at pace over the years, however, the UK still lags behind the US market by roughly five years. At first glance, this may seem like a bad thing, but instead, I think it presents an opportunity for businesses in the UK to learn from US businesses, taking onboard the strategies and innovations that have worked well. That being said, I so also recognise that learnings from the UK can also be taken onboard by the US too, with many businesses taking a leaf out of the UK book of signage and toning it down a little to streamline messaging and avoid confusion.

This is an exciting time for the UK signage industry and I’m really looking forward to seeing what the future holds for the sector. One thing that’s for sure though, I’m confident digital signage strategies will play a key role in the growth of the sector as will immersive, experiential graphics to enhance workplace.

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