In 1962, students at University of Michigan started to notice strange ads appearing on in the lower corner of the student newspaper’s front page. On each edition, a different word appeared in a strange language they didn’t understand.1The strange language was Turkish. Apparently there weren’t many exchange students back then to enlighten the monolingual American students. Some days it was a new word and other days it was a word that appeared before. Since the student’s lacked Google, the words continued to mystify them.
At the semester’s end, students took a survey to determine their feelings about certain words and symbols. It found students positively rated the mysterious words they saw most often.
The students didn’t know what the words meant, yet they liked the frequent words more than those they’d seen only once. 2Zajonc, Robert B. “Attitudinal Effects of Mere Exposure.”, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Monograph Supplement June 1968
This smart psychology experiment has been replicated many times with consistent results. The more we’re exposed to anything the more we tend to like it. This phenomenon is called the mere-exposure effect.
The mere exposure effect is why lawn signs have a role in your campaign. The more individuals see your name, the more they feel comfortable with it.
But here’s the issue. Voters have the same reaction to your opponent’s signs. So the sign advantage is essentially a wash. Unless…you do something else.
You put signs on lawns of actual voters. (Seriously, this isn’t rocket science).
When a signs on an actual lawn, voters driving by see the sign, notice the house and think, “Oh, the Smiths are voting for [You].” This gives repeated exposure and the social proof that neighbors are supporting you.
It’s hard to get signs on voters’ lawns. To do it well you need to be going door-to-door. It takes time to build up 100 or ever 300 families who are confident enough in you to endorse you with a lawn sign.
It’s much easier to pay some College Republicans $200 to put up 300 signs for you in public right-of-ways. You get your signs up fast but sacrifice quality. Remember the goal is to place lawn signs on actual lawns.
What type of signs should you buy?
There’s no perfect sign type, but this list can help you decide what best fits your budget and goals.
Coroplast signs—can be bought in very low quantities and come in traditional lawn sign sizes all the way up to 4’x8′. Used with wire “H-frame” stakes. Usually the most affordable lawn sign for quantities under 200.
Cardboard poly coat signs—traditional fold over cardboard signs with a poly coat cover. Some come glued on the sides and others you’ll need to fold and staple. Wires and wood stakes work best. Good for medium quantities of signs (500-750).
Bag signs—(my personal favorite) They’re made of plastic and fit snugly over wire frames. They are light-weight and are easy to transport. Make sure they have a UV coat to delay fading and have a colored inside (usually black or gray), so light doesn’t show through. It’s a cost-effective option for quantities over 1000.
Home-made wood signs—can have a nice “grassroots” feel if done well. They take a long time to paint and produce and watch out for your costs per sign. Lumber is expensive and “free” sign material from you or a volunteer is usually considered an in-kind donation. Check your local election laws on this.
Look at what signs others in your area are using. You might find certain sign types not used due to weather or other practical reasons.
How should my sign look?
Your lawn sign’s goal is to remind people of your name and the office you’re seeking. That’s it. Here’re a few design tips to make your signs stand out:
- If you can’t read them 100 feet away, neither can anyone else. Your last name must be huge and in a readable, common font (leave script fonts for Mother’s Day cards).
- Pick one or two bright, bold colors for your sign. More than two colors isn’t worth the extra costs.
- You’re not a real estate agent (or a tool) so don’t put your picture on your sign.
- Include the proper political disclaimer before you send it to print. This is important.
- Readability trumps creativity, leave the art awards to others.
One final lawn sign tip (this is your reward for reading the whole article).
Delegate lawn sign duties to a volunteer. In every district in America, there’s a retiree with a truck who would love to put up your signs. As a candidate, you still will need to ask the people you meet if you can put a sign in their yard. But let a volunteer take care of details and maintenance.
Oh, and one last thing. Do not…I repeat, do not get worked up if your signs get stolen or disappear. Don’t waste time fuming that you had 23 signs up yesterday, and now there are 19. Don’t plan some crazy stakeout to catch the culprit. Signs get blown down, lost, and stolen. It’s just a cost of running.
Focus instead on high-value interactions that make people want to vote for you. Go door-to-door and meet as many as possible. Listen to their problems, and be a candidate they’ll feel comfortable calling when they have an issue or need help. That will win you votes, not lawn signs.
Sources & Notes [ + ]
|1.||↑||The strange language was Turkish. Apparently there weren’t many exchange students back then to enlighten the monolingual American students.|
|2.||↑||Zajonc, Robert B. “Attitudinal Effects of Mere Exposure.”, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Monograph Supplement June 1968|