Does Your Signage Do More Harm Than Good?

harmful signage

Signage has several purposes. It provides information, gives direction and promotes businesses. When your signage is well-designed, properly installed and in good condition it is an asset to your business. But when those elements aren’t in place, your signage can do more harm than good.

Here are the top 6 issues that make signage more of a detriment than an asset.

1) Signs With Unfortunate Wording

One of the main purposes of signage (especially signage that advertises sales and special events) is to draw people in and make them want to buy your stuff. Unfortunate wording can have the opposite effect.

This sign in the window of a New York City shoe store doesn’t inspire confidence; it makes me want to go out and comparison shop. Probably? If you can’t state something with complete certainty, it shouldn’t be on your sign. What kind of service and quality could I expect from this store? Well… maybe it would be really good. And maybe not.



Poor grammar probably doesn’t bother everyone, but it definitely bothers me; the grammar on this sign makes me wince every time I drive by. The verb “Park” should be joined by another verb: “Sell.” I won’t go into an entire grammar lesson here; either you get it or you don’t. If you don’t, then you probably want to get a second opinion next time you’re trying to come up with wording for your sign.


The creator of this sign was probably counting on Google Translate to provide the correct words in English. A tactic that obviously didn’t work.


2) Signs That Are Outdated

Holiday signage is a great way to add a festive touch to the exterior of your shop. But when the holiday is over, the signage should come down. Immediately.

If you still have Christmas signage up five weeks after the holiday, are you that far behind with your client orders, too?

Holiday sign

3) Signs That Are Poorly Maintained

Signage isn’t meant to be a “set it and forget it” part of your store. It needs occasional repair. When signs are damaged, they should be fixed promptly.

Hopefully this restaurant is a little more fussy with its food quality than it is with its signage quality.

Broken sign

Digital signs go on the fritz every so often. If yours is frozen or otherwise not displaying properly, turn it off and call the sign company to fix it.

broken display

4) Signs That Aren’t Being Used to Their Full Potential

The recession has hit hard in my town and many businesses along Main Street have closed. How can you tell when a business is shut down? The message marquees on its sign is blank.

But what if you’re still open for business? Well, if you have a marquee on your sign, it should say something. Anything. If it’s blank, people might think you’ve closed for good.

Both of these businesses typically have messages up on their marquees. So when I drove past them recently and saw that they were blank, I immediately wondered if they had closed down. Nope.

The businesses are both still open; they’ve just neglected their signs. Not only are these signs not being as effective as they could be if they were advertising specials; they’re actually doing harm by causing potential customers to wonder if the business is closed.

5) Signs That Need to be Replaced

No sign lasts forever; eventually old, worn signage must be replaced. If you leave signs up way past their prime, customers can get several impressions about your business:

You’re lazy. Otherwise you’d take down an obviously ruined sign.


You’re broke. Why else would you leave up a raggedy sign?


You’re blind. Can’t you see that your sign is faded and has holes in it? These signs were probably provided by the manufacturer of the car wash product. A quick phone call might result in some free replacements.


You’re out of business. This sign for an orthodontist is so old and ruined that I thought the guy had gone bankrupt. Nope… his office is still there and the lights are on.


6) Signs That Need Installation Attention

Perhaps you weren’t as thorough with your sign installation as you should have been. Or maybe yesterday was really windy and one corner of your sign came loose. It doesn’t really matter why your sign came undone… it just matters how quickly you fix it. If you leave it like this, no one can read your message.

This business is “Now Accepting” something. New patients? Donations? Criticism about their crappy sign? It’s impossible to tell.


This business is… well, we don’t know. Because we don’t even know what this business is. Because the sign is all folded over so we can’t read a darn thing on it.


It doesn’t matter what kind of business you own—your customers have the following questions:

Is this business legitimate? Customers want to do business with companies that look like they’ve either been around for awhile, or will be. It’s ok if your business is new, but you should project confidence and security. If you just slap up a couple saggy banners on the front lawn, your business will have a temporary feel. Instead, properly install your temporary banners above your doorway. Make sure that your yard signs are kept in good condition. Your signs should never give customers the impression that you’re headed for bankruptcy… or already closed.

Is the business owner organized and professional? Customers don’t want to deal with haphazard, disorganized businesses—they have better ways to spend their time than babysitting the people who are supposed to be helping fulfill their needs. If you haven’t removed Christmas signage yet, now’s the time (well, the time was actually four weeks ago, but better late than even later).

Does the business owner care about me as a customer? Customers are aware that businesses must work hard to project a good image. So if you’re slacking off you might be projecting a different attitude—one that says “I don’t care what you think… just come in and spend your money here anyway.”

Does this business have a good reputation? A business that wants to protect its reputation begins by looking like a reputable business. A business that doesn’t care has worn-out, tattered signage. A business that has screwed up with customers so many times that the owners have just given up has signage that is slumped onto the ground.

Is this business equipped to handle my needs? If you don’t seem to have the time or inclination to repair or replace broken signage, you might not have the time or inclination to deal with your customers’ needs. Or you might not have sufficient funding to take care of all your company’s financial needs, which may mean that you don’t have sufficient funding to get your customers’ projects underway.

Your signage provides the first impression of your business to potential customers. Make sure it’s working for you… not against you.


Nelson James

Nelson James is the chief operating officer of and is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company. Prior to joining the team, Nelson was the president and co-founder of For over 6 years he helped to grow the company from 2 to over 85 employees. Nelson managed many large accounts during his tenure at, including In early 2011, Nelson was recruited to Lendio Inc., where he was VP of marketing and was responsible for the creation and management of a marketing team as well as the strategy, tactics and programs to create interest and demand for Lendio’s products and services. Prior to his work experience, Nelson graduated Cum Laude from Brigham Young University in marketing and advertising from the communications department. Nelson lives in Lehi, Utah with his wife and three children. He currently holds leadership positions in scouting and volunteers in his church and community.