It’s an election year and that means my nemesis has returned: Yard signs.

I hate yard signs. They are ugly, obnoxious and ruin the landscape. As a marketer that mainly works in the digital world, it would be easy for me to scoff and how wasteful and pointless yard signs are when it comes to a campaign — but I would be wrong.

Yard signs, with their spindly little legs and bright colors, do work, as do other forms of outbound marketing such as billboards and flyers. This revelation came to me while standing in line to vote in 2014. I glowered at all of the yard signs, but one in particular stood out to me: Dan Blue.

Dan Blue was running unopposed.

“Look at that,” I said to my neighbor. “That guy is running unopposed, yet he STILL has a yard sign. How wasteful. What a jerk. I’m not voting for him!”

My outrage made the crowd snicker, but I followed through. I did not vote for Dan Blue. Of course he won handily because, with or without my vote, there was no one around to defeat him.

Fast forward to 2016. Dan Blue is running again, and he has something that every politician needs: name recognition. That’s important because this year he’s not running unopposed in a local election, but has moved up in the world to be running for a statewide office. In tightly contested races around here, that means that Dan Blue needs every single vote this time around. And just like in commercial marketing, getting that name out there is an absolute key to success.

Why election yard signs and outbound marketing work

As drivers are rolling down the road at twenty-five, thirty-five, or forty-five miles per hour, they’re not going to be reading any in-depth information about whatever it is that the yard sign is selling.

Keep in mind that outbound marketing like yard signs, billboards, traditional media, etc., all fall into the category of “seller seeking buyer.” Yes indeed, this is like a vast garage sale in which marketers put their stuff out on the lawn and hope that they neighbors come by to purchase their old blender.

So why does this kind of “put it out there” marketing work? Here are four reasons.

■ Repetition

There is simply something about seeing the same thing over and over again that’s very powerful. It’s the reason that when people are trying to memorize something that they repeat it over and over again. The more times something is said, the more likely it is to stick with you.

■ Variation

One of the keys to memory is being exposed to the same message in a wide variety of forms. Though you might make headway with just one kind of stimuli, you’re going to get a whole lot further with several, because the brain is wired for lots of kinds of input. In that context, yard signs become one piece of a many in a comprehensive campaign. Others could include that web marketing that’s so important today, television advertisements, direct mail, etc. The more ways that potential voters or buyers are exposed to the name, the message, the product – the more likely they’re going to buy.

■ Awareness

The bottom line is that in order to make headway in an election or in the marketplace, people have to be aware that you’re out there. Though a yard sign doesn’t offer a real chance for a sale, what it does do is to create the sense in someone’s mind that they know this name, and by extension this person. This entire process is a game of numbers, a game of putting it out there. The more times someone sees a name, the more familiar they’re going to become with what’s being sold, whether that’s a political candidate or a sale at a business.

■ Intimacy

Yard signs offer the chance for content to be repeated over and over, and over and over again. Generally, we see yard signs for political candidates or for local events. There is something deeply intimate about a yard sign, because it was placed right there by someone with their two hands. In the case of politics, it often meant that a passionate volunteer had to give up their free time in order to physically place the sign in a spot that they believed would be prominent. They wanted to make a difference, and took action to do so.

■ Saturation

Those yard signs are right there, in your face every single day. For months. While that point of saturation might be annoying–ok well, maybe infuriating–it still works. I might not have voted for Dan Blue because of those danged signs, but I was most certainly in the minority of people. Most of the people who went in to vote and didn’t know anything about him will have checked the box simply because the name was familiar. By saturating the marketplace with the message, marketers and candidates are both able to reach their goals.

Making election yard signs work for you

Integrating traditional marketing techniques is something that’s well worth the effort. Though it’s tempting today to think that the technology is the be-all-end-all way for businesses to get customers, in truth there is a great deal of opportunity to make money by using the tried and true techniques that have been around for decades.

The key to success in business means taking every single opportunity that’s available, making headway in every area that’s possible.


Pete Peranzo

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