March 18, 2013
Sign of the times
EDITOR: Comments made below recognize the hard work of elected officials. The following notes are limited to advertising ordinances. Running five locations, I manage to appear as a blip on a few sign ordinance officials' rife sights for having too many signs. Some progressive townships actually support the appearance of business vibrancy. Others have less tolerance - in effect castrating whatever signs of healthy initiative there may have been. One would believe a peaceful cemetery is the optimum target for market presence, which is where a lot of business will find themselves if the advertising ordinances remain without an update. As an occasional finance and marketing adjunct, it pains me to see the level of -"we've always done it that way" attitudes. Look, after 600 years, even the Pope came around. The world doesn't come to an end! Preponderance of the evidence shows near universal ignorance of even basic Advertising Principles. The consistent message being - "be seen and not heard" - as within a funeral service to protect public decorum. At the same time, Internet viruses are laughing and infecting anything in sight at a rate of 1000 a nanosecond. There is near unanimous agreement by the business establishment that most signage ordinances are out of date as the dinosaurs who first roamed the earth.
Some township officials without any skin in the game come across as smug and oblivious to the financial pressures that business owners face to survive and the need to adopt constant change. At our business, we re-calibrate our strategies every few weeks, where it used to be an annual event. Amazon & Co. has been tightening the choke- hold on every local retailer. Current economic climate makes it difficult to compete. Why? Because buyers have come to expect prices on every item, which simply cannot be matched. It's mostly about the high cost of labor and fixed overhead. Internet resellers don't have expensive retail locations to stock, maintain, and worry about township's obsolete signage ordinances.
It takes staffing and training only to have the buyer say.. "I'll buy it on lineâ¦" after checking out the product. Throw in free sales tax, local tax, gas to town and Internet buying is a "no-brainer" for the value shopper. And that's to say nothing of the cost of investing in the building, remodeling, costly showroom and demo gear.
Matching retail gravity with solutions wanted, takes a heavy dose of product analysis, and reading tea leaves. Over the years we've been forced to reinvent ourselves from a sleepy office supply business - to a broad spectrum of Communication.
The point beingâ¦ the weather changes, the seasons change, the entire universe changes - it's high time elected officials updated old signage ordinances to 21st century marketing realities.
Sadly, both business owners and Chamber of Commerce leadership have been ineffective to engage the status quo given the cumbersome process, part-time and absentee ownership of signage policies. These policies severely impact the ability of local business to provide critical components of TMA -Top of the mind awareness. Ignorance isn't bliss. Top notch expertise is just around the corner with input from Penn State and Mansfield University. For businesses to thrive - especially in small towns, it is vital to relax signage ordinances while there is a business left to regulate.