The other night I was driving home on I-229, probably paying too much attention to the billboards, businesses and illuminated signs along the road. I couldn’t help but notice the number of businesses and buildings that had signs with burnt out letters. One in particular read “_ _ _R _ _ _ _ _ _” (or something like that; I just remember seeing a lonely lit “R”), on the side of a large building, probably retail of some sort.
If they just took care of their sign, I’d be able to tell you the name of their business, but instead, we’re left trying to play hangman. This is definitely one of the worst cases of sign-neglect I’ve seen.
They had one chance to tell me who they were as I zoomed by at 67 mph, and they screwed it up. And the neon red “R” sign immediately left me with all kinds of preconceptions about their company. Thoughts scrolled through my head as I continued home.
“Their merchandise is probably out-of-date and disorganized.” “Going inside would be like being in a Kmart. Eww.” “They definitely have a bunch of fax machines in there.” Then my imagination really started to run wild. “On the upside, maybe they sell fun obsolete technology that you can’t find anywhere else, like shoe phones or mini disc players, and not as a ‘retro’ gimmick, but because their building lies within a rip in space-time that has frozen them in a perpetual state of 1993.”
A consumer’s first impression of a business, whether it takes place online or on the street, is extremely important. Often-times signage is a part of that first impression. The sign can say a lot about a business, almost foreshadowing what kind of experience consumers may have if they come inside. So based on the sign “_ _ _R _ _ _ _ _ _,” what kind of shopping experience would you expect to have? It definitely would not be like a trip to the Mall of America; I can tell you that.
Letter burn-outs can also result in comical changes to the sign’s meaning. Here’s a bunch of unfortunately funny examples.