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  • Sam Decker

Warning Signs

What’s wrong with this road sign in Las Vegas?

When I saw this from it suggested several marketing principles:

#1 Less is More

It’s possible a driver could attempt to read this eye chart and miss the most important message on this sign…watch out for this giant curb! In marketing, it’s as important to decide what not to say as it is what to say. As a professional speaker, my father always suggested to me that the audience does not know what you didn’t tell them. And, they will remember more if you tell them less.

#2 Prioritize Your Message

Obviously if you abide by less is more, you’re prioritizing what you communicate. However, you still have to prioritize what’s left. Despite the misjudgment of the city worker who believed a driver could read the three bottom signs at 30mph, they did manage to put the most important message on top! If nothing else stands out, the most important message does. Think about that in your copy (most important message first), headlines (most important words first), and presentations (answer first). And don’t be afraid to make the most important message stand out and be remembered…larger font, emotion, story, humor, metaphor, color, etc.

#3 Don’t Overestimate Your User

Inside the four walls of your building, and another three walls of your cube, you are well insulated from understanding the customers’ perspective. This causes well-intentioned people to make mistakes like this sign. Someone at a desk actually designed these signs thinking drivers could read them. The only way to avoid this is to proactively step away from your walls, watch customers, and repeat these steps frequently. Ideas that have worked for me: Attend usability studies, conduct surveys, look at web metrics, read the verbatims on the survey, listen to calls, join salespeople on customer visits, create a customer advisory council, read online newgroups/forums, etc. After you’ve taken action from this insight, measure the intended result. I’d like to see a researcher stopping drivers 50 yards past this sign to do an unattributed awareness study of what the sign said!

#4 Context is Crucial

The intended audience for this sign is a driver passing by. However, this important context of SPEED may have slipped the creator’s mind. When you market, what is the context of the customer? Who are they (persona), what are they doing (shopping behavior), and what place does your product or service have in their brain vs. alternatives (positioning).

So heed the warning signs. Let’s hope this kind of customer-facing flop happens “Only in Las Vegas”.


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