Where are consumers driving the signage environment and what changes can we expect to see over the next few years? Industry experts discuss the future of signage in South Africa.

A number of recent marketing trend reports* have indicated that while print is still the most widely used signage solution around the globe, due to the emergence of digital signage and more opportunities for it, print signage is currently experiencing a lower uptake in the marketing mix.

Managing Director of Technique Media, Darren Kirby, believes that the global movement towards digital means that the future of signage in South Africa is ultimately going to be technologically advanced and personal, although there is a long road ahead as marketers weigh up the pros and cons of the commitment to this shift.

Philip Gelderblom, Production Manager at Singh & Sons, said that with post-demographic consumerism driving strategic changes for brands, we are seeing ‘more messaging across many platforms that compete for the consumer’s attention. Signage needs to be bold and visible to be seen, with a simple message to grab the consumer. In future, we will see much more interactivity, electronic signage with varying messaging, and instant gratification interaction between consumer and sign, undoubtedly integrating mobile devices’.

‘Signage will have to be part of a mix of marketing tools. That said, there are risks to traditional signage: the increase in online shopping is breaking the chain between input and decision, and the lure of the cell phone. Most commuters, and even pedestrians, are constantly distracted by their cell phones. They do not see their environment anymore,’ he added.

Vik Norval, Creative Director at Creative Workshop, said that they are seeing a fair number of clients migrating to digital solutions for conducting business, mirroring global trends. ‘The reduction of data costs has allowed for a longer engagement rate. In future, there will be a strong emphasis on brand awareness and identity, and less on ‘glitz and glamour’. Inevitably, consumers will have seen a brand online and signage will serve more as an indicator of location or brand as opposed to a lure,’ he said.

‘Where businesses have a physical footprint there will always be a need for signage, but rather than be a primary marketing tool, it becomes an extension of digital activity. The only consideration from a design perspective is that branding and corporate identity need to be transferable across traditional and digital platforms. Strong, bold designs that work well across all platforms are key, and the use of substrates and quality finishes that are representative of the brand ethos will remain.’

Kirby said, ‘With this in mind, marketers must assess the intentions behind their signage needs. The print signage industry may be seeing somewhat of a decline and all indications of current trends suggest that this will only increase in time, but as Norval stated, where businesses have a physical footprint, there will always be a need for signage. Even if only as an indicator of location. And this is especially true for companies whose main objective is not to directly reach end consumers.’

Ulanda Neveling from Freddy Hirsch Group said, ‘Our brand may consider digital solutions in future for the ease and speed in which it can be done, and for the ability to change messaging regularly at a relatively low price, but currently we use signage to indicate where our premises are located and to create a corporate brand image at our various sites.’

‘Whether your company observes current and future signage trends or not really depends on your brands, audience and objectives, but the future of signage in South Africa – and indeed across the globe – is in an interesting industry to watch. We’re all very excited to see what the future holds,’ concluded Kirby.

TECHNIQUE MEDIA +27 (0) 82 391 7717 darren@techniquemedia.co.za

*1) Research reports by Mordor Intelligence

2) Reports by Rohan Ayyar and Katherine Hays at Entreprenuer Magazine

3) An insightful article by Cardinal Digital Marketing