How to use signage in marketing a residential development

Over the last few weeks I have looked at some of the new trends surrounding online marketing, but this week I would like to return to an old and very hard-working tool of project marketing: signage.

An important part of the marketing mix

The media mix available for any campaign is usually very diverse and has rapidly changed over the past few years. The powerhouse that is the online marketing has now joined the other varied forms of mass media, press, direct mail, radio, TV and signage.

But workhorses like signs and direct mail still have their place. There are many challenges that result from today’s diverse media mix. But the question still remains as to what media represents the best value, and signs are a part of the mix.

The ritual of open times

In almost any sales path I am always reminded about the daily ritual of putting up signs. The “now open” A-frame is never out of fashion, it’s like the courtesy of how we manage the meet and greet of every visitor to an open. This most basic step is, I think, a good starting point.


Signs, in particular on-site signs, have a big advantage over almost all other forms of marketing – they are directly connected and related to the site and the product. They are there working 24/7, and there is ample evidence to show that signs will always be required as an essential of project marketing.

There can be limitations, and in some areas these limits are because of planning regulations imposed by local planning requirements. But it can also be possible to use fence banners and with the wide application of smartphones signs can point interested people to a website. If at all possible that should be a mobile website.

Signs also have to be visible, and a sign in a busy CBD environment or in a crowded residential area where there is a lot of ‘visual noise’ can melt into the surrounding environment that is if they are not well designed with a clear and easy-to-understand message.

The design of a sign should reflect the brand values of the project but also take into account the environment. They might to some appear not to be of relevance to a high-end buyer, but I would not agree. Buyers for a CBD development tend to be drawn from many different areas, and a good site sign is likely to attract a buyer's initial attention by making it easy to find or identify a particular site.

In some circumstances the target consumer may not live in the immediate area, they may very well be traveling there in response to a press ad or an eDM, and so as soon as they see the signs it’s easy to get their attention for your project.

However despite some limitations signs are powerful and necessary and time needs to be invested to keep them current and related to the wider marketing message. Signs need to be clear easy to read in a few seconds, and they should work within the brand lock-up for the project – where the colours and logo might just be enough to make a connection with a buyer out searching for you.

Just how big and how many signs will relate to the needs of each project, but in some highly visible locations a big investment can be well justified and it is important to manage signs over the life of a project and so budget for a reasonable number of up-dates to cover material and creative content.

They also need to be kept up-to-date, like an out of date website, an out of date sign is a negative and must be avoided. If they are out of date it sends a downbeat message to the local community as well as potential buyers.

Plan signs as a dedicated activity

Signs are an importance of presentation and a key point for connecting buyers into the sales path.  A poor signage layout can make it harder for buyers to find you or to contact your team and there is no doubt this can loose a sale. The consumer’s expectations need to be fully taken on board, they do not know your project, where it is, even the area may be totally new and even with on-screen maps the role of the sign should not be neglected.

It is difficult to over-stress how vital the on-site signs can be and at times a major investment will be more than justified, it is all part of planning the buyers experience and should be an early part and an ongoing part of planning.

At the start of a new estate or apartment project there is a blank canvas, either an empty parcel of land, an area with buildings that are about to be demolished or some other form of disused amenity that has no baring what so ever with the new project and signs can help fill that gap.

But keep in mind that for any potential buyer the site is, at least for their first visit, a complete mystery and this again suggest that signs should be simple – they are not read as a press ad or a brochure so avoid clutter.

There is a need make sure key details like, telephone contacts, branding and website details stand out. This applies to all signs, banners, construction hoardings, a-frames and directional signs and the basics need to be ticked off for both the largest and smallest signs.

Electronic signs

Technology will soon deliver a new generations of signs, that are interactive, that can ‘talk and communicate’ with anyone engaged with the sign, in real time, not like a QR code, but much more. I have been looking some of the new ideas emerging. It’s a fascinating area that I will return to.

Signs will evolve, they already are, but we should not underestimate or neglect planning and design because their value even at the most basic level is critical.

Peter Chittenden is managing director for residential of Colliers International.

Peter Chittenden

Peter Chittenden

Peter Chittenden is managing director for residential of Colliers International.

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