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Light the Way | Illuminated vs. Non-Illuminated Signage

Illuminated signage impacts a business in many ways. Your brand’s marketing efforts and your bottom line are directly impacted by the ability to permit illuminated signage, and the restrictions municipalities impose on illuminated signage often trend upward. Is non-illuminated signage a feasible solution, or just the only option available?

Marketing Functions of On-Premise Signs

First and foremost, what are the real benefits of on-premise signage? Listed are the four key marketing functions of on-premise signs as outlined in On-Premise Signs as Storefront Marketing Devices and Systems by Taylor, Claus, and Claus (2005).

  • Communicating the business’ location;
  • Reinforcing advertisements and other promotional techniques as a part of integrated marketing communications;
  • Branding the location; and
  • Enhancing the image of the store or business.

Examining the four key functions brings us to the conclusion that illuminated and non-illuminated signs can perform all four functions. While both illuminated and non-illuminated signs fit the criteria. Illumination reinforces the sign’s ability to perform its intended marketing functions. In turn, a properly lit sign can increase your company’s competitive advantage.

Per an academic study completed by Taylor, Sarkees, and Bang (2012). 85% of a representative U.S. sample of on-premise sign users would lose sales if they did not have an on-premise sign. Additionally, the average reported loss across the entire sample was 34.5%. (Journal of Public Policy & Marketing; Fall2012, Vol. 31 Issue 2)

A Correlation between Illumination and Profit Margin

To determine the correlation between illuminated signage and an increase in sales volume we will use the survey and sampling plan developed by Dr. Charles R. Taylor of Villanova University.

The issues regarding the illumination of on-premise signs show that the percentages of businesses facing lighting restrictions are as follows:

  • Allowable hours of illumination 3%
  • Sign Brightness 8%
  • Type of illumination 24%

“Results indicate that lighted on-premise signs substantially impact the bottom line on many businesses. A sizeable majority of respondents (58%) indicated they would lose sales if government regulations prevented signs from being lit at any hour. For those who reported a sales loss, the average estimate was 21%. For the overall sample, including those businesses not reporting a loss, the average estimated loss of sales exceeded 10%.” (

The Bottom Line                                                   

If non-illuminated signage is the only option available, it will, in fact, benefit the business and help increase foot traffic. The issue is will it befit your business enough to be profitable. As you can see from the numbers above, for most small businesses 10% – 20% decreases in sales can easily deplete a business’s entire profit margin. Our fast-paced society relies on convenience and ease of use for many of the purchasing decisions made. Restricting a sign’s illumination or duration of usage. Can cause the sign to go unnoticed resulting in a decrease, or loss of sales for the business.

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