Signage That Really Says Something
“The medium is the message.”
Philosopher of communication theory Marshall McLuhan coined that phrase in his 1964 book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. He put forth that the form through which someone receives a message is as meaningful as the message itself. He argued that societies are defined by their technology or media arrangement, stating that “we shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.”
In 1967, McLuhan released The Medium Is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects. Did you catch the mistake? The original typesetter made an error, replacing the “e” in “message” with an “a.” When McLuhan saw the fresh-from-the-printer cover, he exclaimed, “Leave it alone! It’s great, and right on target!” Pretty meta, right?
As a Word Guy I hate to admit it, but the man makes a good point. The way we deliver a message, particularly in marketing, can influence the receiver as strongly as the message does. Social media proves this to be true every day; a tweet screams urgent and timely (“Sale! Now!”), while a pin suggests inspiration and reflection (“… your bedroom sanctuary”).
It’s no different in the offline marketing world. Consider the classic sign.
This in-store workhorse can brilliantly frame and forward a message when the retail marketer thinks beyond basic vinyl and corrugated as a delivery system. (Though we love corrugated.) Smart marketers will use design and unconventional materials to shape the voice of and create context for an in-store marketing message. The goal is to transform one-dimensional signage into multi-layered interactions that will delight experience-demanding shoppers.
Make the media an integral part of the message. Surfaces once thought unlikely or impossible can now host signage. Thanks to advanced printing and projection technology, a marketer can put a message on literally anything: sheet metal, a silk drape, a waterfall, a mannequin’s torso, slate, glass, a beach towel, a building, plastic, paper, driftwood, a live model, a stuffed animal or even lunch. (There’s a great example of printing on foodstuffs in our webinar “Signs of Success – Advanced Signage and Display Strategies”; check it out.)
It’s just like my other favorite philosopher of communication – my mom – used to tell me, “It’s not what you say. It’s how you say it.”