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3 Essential Sign Functions: Are Your Commercial Signs Doing Their Duty?

Jan 18,2021

3 Essential Sign Functions: Are Your Commercial Signs Doing Their Duty?

Today’s post reviews research by the Interdisciplinary Journal of Signage and Wayfinding on essential sign functions to help you determine whether your commercial signs are doing their jobs.

If you detect any dereliction of duty in your sign system, the team at Baltimore Signs and Graphics is standing by to whip them into shape. Call 410-877-6011 or visit the Baltimore Signs & Graphics website to book a free consultation and get a same-day quote on any commercial sign services.

The 3 Essential Commercial Sign Functions

In a landmark study for the Interdisciplinary Journal of Signage and Wayfinding, researchers James Kellaris and Karen Machleit (2016) identified three primary commercial sign functions:

1.   Commercial Signs Must Enhance Identification Of Business

Earlier this month, we cited a study from the Sign Research Foundation that indicated that as many as 61% of all shoppers have failed to find a business they had planned to visit because the signs were too small, too inconspicuous, or otherwise unclear.

With that in mind, it’s little wonder Kellaris and Machleit rank business identification as the #1 commercial sign function. Why bother with branding and marketing if your commercial signs aren’t conspicuous? If even “fully converted” customers with strong purchase intent won’t be able to find your store, that budget is going to waste.

If you feel like your marketing budget isn’t yielding adequate returns, even when you’re getting good engagement signals (e.g. high number of impressions, solid click-through rating, etc), you may need to make your commercial signs more conspicuous, and we can help!

2.   Commercial Signs Must Enhance Brand Authority

“Commercial signs may also serve as inferential cues and basis for thin-slice judgments about the businesses they represent,” write Kellaris and Machleit (2016, p. 1).

Thin-slicing theory is all about how people make snap judgments about brands, products, and people based on “thin slices” or small windows of exposure. It boils down to the power of first impressions, and your commercial signs play a big part.

What does your commercial sign say about you? Does it advance your brand’s narrative, or hint at your main value propositions? Does it truly reflect your brand’s character and quality? And does it do all this at-a-glance?

If you need a second opinion, or a commercial sign makeover, we can help.

3.   Commercial Signs Must Enhance Advertising Outcomes

“As the oldest and most fundamental form of marketing communication, commercial signs can potentially affect a broad array of marketing outcomes, such as purchasing and other consumptive behaviours, as well as the thoughts and feelings that precede and shape such behaviors,” write Kellaris and Machleit (2016, p. 1).

In a Sign Research Foundation study titled The Economic Value of On-Premise Signs, researchers measured the impacts of commercial signs on advertising revenues as follows:

  • 6% increased in revenue for a 144-square-foot pole sign
  • 3% increase in revenue for a 225-square-foot monument sign
  • 5% increase in revenue for a 6-square-foot directory sign
  • 3% increase in revenue for a 36-square-foot building sign

If your commercial signage isn’t yielding these kinds of returns, it’s probably time for an upgrade, and our team can help.

Free Quote On Commercial Signs In Baltimore, MD

Whether you need design remediation or custom commercial signs built from scratch, Baltimore Signs & Graphics has what you need. As one of Baltimore’s only true one-stop shops, we’re proud to offer a complete range of commercial signage, including indoor signs, outdoor signs, trade show displays, and vehicle wraps and graphics.

We’ve helped hundreds of Maryland locals whip their commercial signs into shape, and we can do the same for you. Call 410-877-6011 or visit the Baltimore Signs & Graphics website to start your 100% free consultation.


Kellaris, J. J., & Machleit, K. A. (2016). Signage as marketing communication: A conceptual model and research propositions. Interdisciplinary Journal of Signage and Wayfinding, 1(1).

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