Signage continues to gain importance in overall branding efforts, as retailers seek to differentiate themselves with signs tailored to local markets and to create department ambiance. And increasingly, there is a lot more participation by marketing and advertising departments in developing signage programs.
“It is not just the construction or store planning departments anymore,” said Tony Camilletti, executive VP, D/Fab, Madison Heights, Mich.
Advancements in printing techniques have made available a wide variety of materials, helping retailers in their efforts to closely match signage to the store or department image.
“We are seeing the blending of graphics and signing become a key branding element within a space, versus just being a means to tell you where the restrooms are or what is down the aisle,” Camilletti added. “And the elements can be permanent or easily changed out to update as the brand is evolving.”
When it comes to retail sectors, “supermarkets and the food industry are still the pioneers and risk-takers,” Camilletti said.
“They take advantage of their space as a canvas to display, communicate and embellish what the brand is about through color, material, texture and lighting,” he added.
At Whole Foods Market, the signage is designed to reflect each store’s locale, creating a strong sense of place. In the company’s new Detroit store, the bakery header is made up of a series of raw metal conduits, recalling the tail pipes suggested by the famous “Motor City” moniker. The sign in the cheese department features a corrugated metal background, and is designed to recall urban graffiti. (The “Cheese” sign and corrugated metal bulkhead were designed by the store’s design consultant, JGA, Southfield, Mich., and refined and fabricated by D|Fab, which manufactured and installed the store’s interior decor and signing.)
“Whole Foods really celebrates the idea of being local,” Camilletti said.
Interest in digital signage solutions has exploded in recent years.
“Digital is now on everybody’s drawing board in some respect,” said Scott Jeffrey, chief creative officer, Interbrand Design Forum, Dayton, Ohio. “It depends on how adventurous you are as a brand for how far you go.”
Some brands are looking to digital tools for flexibility with price promotional messaging at the shelf, Jeffrey said, and “to have more latitude to attract attention in the aisle.”
Kohl’s, for example, has installed digital signs that display prices and discounts on fixtures and racks. The technology is also in pilot in supermarkets, drug stores and convenience stores.
“I think the next frontier is for stores to have a digital experience and a physical brand experience at the same time,” Jeffrey said. “There is some magic in that.”
Ridgeland, Miss.-based C Spire Wireless, for example, has introduced a new area in its new generation stores called Engage, an information hub with interactive high-definition screens. Customers can use the touch-screen displays to learn about the company’s reward program and products or tap into its community forum.
Innovations abound. In Japan, select fashion retailers have begun using the TeamLabHanger from Japanese tech firm TeamLab. The hanger has a sensor that triggers a related video on a nearby wall when it is lifted off the rack.
Brazilian fashion retailer C&A has introduced a high-tech hanger with a built-in digital display that shows the number of Facebook “likes” the garment has received. The counters, powered by the retailer’s website, are updated in real time to reflect the input of C&A’s Facebook fans.
Laura Klepacki is a contributing editor for Chain Store Age.