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Newsletter #1013: The “Signs” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.]

You can do a lot with a sign to make it more remarkable. Here’s how three companies used them to help their customers out, spread their message further, and stand out from the competition:

1. Nice signs
2. Portable signs
3. Helpful signs
4. Check it out: Adult shows meet children’s books

1. Nice signs

When you’re putting up a sign in your store, you can either use the opportunity to give a command, or you can use it to be helpful. Usually, the helpful signs make for a more friendly customer experience. At Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore for example, they have signs like, “Getting tile today? Use a blue cart. They work best!” That’s a lot friendlier than a sign like, “BLUE CARTS ONLY” — same results, but the friendly sign feels like it’s from an actual human.

The lesson: So many businesses think that if it’s in writing, it’s a rule — not a matter of customer service. That’s not solving a problem, it’s passive aggressive. ReStore used their sign to help remove an obstacle for their customer and make their experience better — not yell at them.

2. Portable signs

McDonald’s put up small billboards throughout Sweden with big black trash bags attached that said “We now accept cards, cash, and cans.” Printed on the trashbags was a list of McDonald’s burgers you could trade for collecting and bringing in empty cans so McDonald’s can recycle them. (10 cans for a cheeseburger, 40 for a Big Mac, etc.)

The lesson: That black trash bag makes their billboard mobile. People carrying around these bags are also carrying around McDonald’s message. Even better, if they’re picking up trash, they’re doing so while helping out the city.

Learn more: Consumerist

3. Helpful signs

At the Chili’s in the DFW airport, a giant bottle of Aquafina was on top of our table with this sign: “Take me with you! Ask your server to add this water to your check!” It’s simple, but clever. Now the traveler doesn’t have to make an extra stop at another shop to buy water for the flight, and it’s one of those little things that could add up to a lot of revenue for the restaurant.

The lesson: Chili’s was thinking one step ahead of their customer’s needs. And with a simple sign, Chili’s found a way to reach them before their competition.

4. Check it out: Adult shows meet children’s books

Artist Joey Spiotto created artwork mashing up shows and movies like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and Kill Bill with the cutesy style of iconic Little Golden Books.

Check it out: Fast Company

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