Money Metrics for Visuals

What you may spend to make a big impact

I was driving north up the highway to Portland, Oregon, when I noticed a huge inflatable blowup of a couple in a hot tub on the roof of a spa store on a parallel road. It was new, noticeable and kind of funny. The man had rubber nipples and as I was sitting in traffic, I looked for a belly button. The details, thankfully, stopped there.

Ages ago when a high number of the population was illiterate, signs were symbols and pictures. A pair of eyeglasses, a barbershop pole or a big tooth told people what they needed to know. Today, most people are literate but a large visual image still has an instant impact, standing apart from the graphic overload on most interior roads and highways.

Online marketing takes most of the advertising budget of spa stores these days. Ads in newspapers, flyers and postcards are taking a backseat to mobile-friendly websites, social-media blasts and online advertising. But your windows, roof and exterior, as well as your shopping bags, are excellent advertising.

Postcards/direct mail still works well for all generations, and with the right message at the right time, they should pull people into the store. Shopping bags are a different type of advertising; canvas or strong plastic bags with a clever look and a small logo will be used over and over in many locations. They will stay in the trunk of a car if the logo is the main graphic.

If you’ve recently moved into a new location, you may remember the real estate agents’ pitch about how many people drive past your location daily. This means nothing unless there’s something to see as they drive by. Car dealers frequently make use of bright, hand-painted window graphics. If your store’s image supports those, go for it. The average cost of painting a 4-foot by 8-foot window area ranges $50 to $100 per linear foot, depending on the complexity of the artwork or graphics.

If you’re old enough to remember Burma-Shave signs on the back roads of America, you’re probably retired. Burma-Shave typically would have a series of six signs with a message that would unfold from sign to sign. The concept lives on, and if you’re in an area when they are allowed, the message is a fun visual attraction for bored drivers. Cleverness is vital with outdoor signage of any type. I used to pass a tool rental place every few weeks and they had a clever, funny outdoor sign that they would change monthly. I would go (slightly) out of my way to see if they had changed it. It was always amusing and I appreciated their efforts. When it came time to rent a tool, that’s where I headed. Churches are well-known to have outdoor signs that change weekly. The more clever the sign, the more often people look. This is a highly affordable way to get positive attention to your store. The initial cost of building the sign and buying the channel letters varies, but the costs are all upfront. Once you’ve bought what you need, the advertising is free for the life of the sign and the letters. All you need is the toughest thing: a clever person to come up with new sayings every two weeks to a month.

Woodland Manufacturing sells a commercial changeable letter set with 250 pieces. Four-inch letters go for $185; six-inch (an excellent size for on the street) are $270 for the set; and nine-inch letters are $418. Of course, the sign with your store name is extra, plus the zoning commission costs (if any).

I’ve mentioned freestanding outdoor flags/feathers in a past column but never included prices. Online, you can find a large variety of pricing, but the average seems to be $200 for a custom printed double-sided outdoor feather shaped sign including the base. I saw some for $110 to $570 each for what looked like the same type of sign. Needless to say, online shopping takes some time to figure out what you’re getting for your money.

FeatherFlagNation.com was at the $200 mark for a 15-foot-tall flag, while their stock colors noncustomized banners went for $15 for a 12-foot-tall flag. BannersOnTheCheap.com lived up to its name, with 12.5-foot-tall customized feather banners starting at $111.

If you go with outdoor banners, buy an odd number, or three on one side of your front door and three on the other. Odd numbers are more interesting and dynamic than even ones. Movement and color attract attention immediately, so customizing at least one banner on either side of your door will immediately tell people who you are or what’s going on. An average cost for this visual advertising is about $1,200, including shipping. Yellow draws attention first, red encourages buying and orange says affordable. Blues and greens are in the favorite color category but are recessive and don’t stand out half as well as the colors from the sun.

If you want color and movement on the cheap, consider reusable balloons. They don’t need helium as they go on tall poles. At around 17 inches wide, in a variety of colors and easy to customize, they are a good investment in outdoor advertising. BigBalloonLady.com sells these singly or in combination packs. DuraBalloons are for harsh environments and can last 10 months to a year depending on how crazy the weather gets. But, like anything, they need to be washed and dusted. One 9-foot tall DuraBalloon is $31 including the kit. There are many other websites for these hearty balloons.

Custom large, outdoor inflatables like the one I saw while driving usually start around $2,000, but they can be seen from a good distance and can bring attention to your store.

While I love window displays, unfortunately most spa retailers avoid them as they take time, patience and money. If you are in a walk-by or drive-by location with few parked cars blocking your windows, a good window display becomes an excellent form of advertising. A bendable mannequin with a fabric exterior and wire frame costs $225 at MannequinMadness.com. They are posable and bendable. Two bathing suits are as inexpensive or expensive as you choose. For $450 plus shipping you can pose two mannequins in a spa or have one sitting on the edge offering the person in the spa a drink — or whatever your nonprurient imagination comes up with. Add hats and sunglasses for a more complete look. Please don’t buy the mannequins with painted faces — they’re really creepy. They also sell child mannequins from infant up to size nine for a family experience display. Add a photo mural backdrop behind the spa: approximately $120 for the stand and $120 for a large vinyl-printed mural designed to go over the photo stand rod. If you order a photomural with a pocket, make sure the pocket is at least one inch larger than the diameter of the pole. If someone at your store has a good sense of humor (that your community will appreciate) add word balloons like those seen in the comics. These can be cut out of foam core; then, using a wide tip black marker, outline the flat balloon shape and add printed words in (at least) four-inch letters. Please make sure your sign maker can spell. There’s no spell check on hand-lettered signs. Of course, light your window display with LED spotlights or floodlights on track with bulbs that have a 2700 to 3200 kelvin rating, as this is more like sunlight. Lighting makes all the difference in a window display, as passersby will actually see all your hard work. The track belongs on or as close to the window wall as possible to shine on the face of your display, not the top. A basic track plus five lights and five LED bulbs go for approximately $200 plus installation. Once it’s in, you won’t need to change the bulbs for years, and your store will look open for business.

No matter how much you spend for your online advertising, there has to be a sense of excitement, interest, creativity and/or fun when people come to your brick and mortar location. Whether you use balloons, banners, huge inflatables, window painting, a real window display or all of the above, you will be advertising your image, standards and style. Make sure your outdoor ads compliment your indoor image and brand.

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