Getting the most out of yard signs

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For yard signs to increase candidate name recognition, a campaign needs to ensure one thing: that voters see them. In many cases, that’s easier said than done.

There could be dozens of candidates’ signs competing for voters’ attention, less common issues like similar candidate names, and if a campaign is going to invest in signs, why not take creative steps to increase the campaigns signs’ exposure to more voters?

One of the challenges to getting your campaign sign seen is overcoming the host of other signs that may be in the way. A campaign doesn’t just compete against their opponent when it comes to signs, a campaign competes for the attention of voters against dozens of other candidates running for a variety of offices.

To stand out from the crowd, make unique and savvy design choices. Red, white and blue are common yard signs colors for obvious reasons, but they also make it far more difficult for a campaign to stand out in a sea of patriotic-colored signs. Instead, consider ordering signs that use colors uncommon for politics and colors that contrast with one another. Choosing colors strategically will results in greater candidate name recognition, which is the primary benefit to campaigns from political signs.

A more difficult challenge is when candidates have similar names. Like all other elements of the campaign, the candidate needs to be able to explain to voters who the candidate is and what office the candidate is running for without confusion. 

There isn’t a perfect answer here, but there are a number of ways a candidate can stand out. If the candidates are running for the same office but are of different parties, a campaign could disregard my earlier advice and choose a color that’s associated with the political party or break other best practices and include a small graphic that will help clarify who the candidate is whether that’s a partisan symbol or a campaign logo.

Another tactic to reduce confusion is to use a custom or unique font across all of your campaign materials. A font can be an important design choice to make it clear who the candidate is. Finally, strategic placement matters. Putting a yard sign at a busy intersection is fine, but planting a sign on private property is best. This will increase the chances that a voter is able to differentiate between one candidate and another with a similar name because there will be less clutter to confuse voters and a voter will be driving or walking by at a much slower rate increasing the time that a voter has to process the sign.

In addition to overcoming challenges, detail-oriented campaigns can leverage certain yard sign tactics to gain greater visibility. One of them is the sign blitz. When signs slowly crop up over time, it’s less jarring to voters than if they woke up to a morning commute greeted by dozens of signs along their route. While it’s short-lived, a sign blitz will get your signs noticed fast.

Another method to get the most from your signs is to earn media. A search on Google News for “campaign signs” will result in dozens and dozens of local stories about yard sign theft, sign wars, and other campaign sign stories. Campaigns can improve their candidate’s name recognition and even pull in some more substantive information about the campaign by using signs to get into local news, radio, TV and blogs.

Yard signs can be a useful tool to increase candidate name recognition, but campaigns need to overcome common pitfalls and think strategically to get the attention of as many voters as possible.

Ben Donahower writes about campaigns signs from a political operative’s perspective at Campaign Trail Yard Signs. Some campaigns get advice about signs from a printer, but Ben makes campaign yard sign recommendations to candidates rooted in political principles. You can connect with Ben on most social networks including LinkedIn and @iapprovethismsg on Twitter.


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