Costumed Sign Wavers Versus Promotional Products

Kolin ToneyOn my way to work each morning I drive by one intersection that always has someone dressed as a reindeer, dancing, waving, and holding a sign that reads “Caribou Coffee.” I have never stopped at that Caribou Coffee on my way to work, nor do I plan to, as I make coffee at home in the morning and have my first cup of the day on the road, and then my second (or third…) using the coffee maker at the office.  However the cheerful, dancing deer often leaves me with a feeling of pleasantry as I continue on my morning commute.

That is until I reach another intersection probably about a mile down the road (maybe 2? I am terrible with estimating distances). It is at this intersection that I am confronted with two (sometimes even three) people dressed in the most terrifying costumes resembling the Statue of Liberty(see scary mask below) that one could ever imagine holding signs that say “Income Tax” in bold letters with a telephone number below. They rotate their body position to direct their signs toward different directions of oncoming traffic, but cheerful they are not. No dancing, and I have only witnessed a wave once maybe twice. I suppose it may be fitting as income tax is not generally considered to be a “cheerful” subject matter, and certainly is less of a joyous matter than say, coffee at 8:45 am. And the costume, though frightening, is also fitting, as they are advertising for Liberty Tax Service whose logo includes a portion of the Statue of Liberty’s head (though the signs do not even denote the company’s name – I figured it out through a little online research).

Some further research led me to find that there are more than 2,500 Liberty Tax offices in the United States where more than 10,000 people are seasonally employed to wave at passing cars. This must be a reactionary effort created by the current administration’s job stimulus plan, was my first thought. My second – does this form of advertising really work? According to Paul Mason, professor and chair of the Department of Economics & Geography at the University of North Florida, it can:

“At first I thought that it was stupid, like people standing on the street waving for their political candidate,” he said.

So like any good skeptic, Mason began investigating to see if the sign holders made any difference in helping a business grow and thrive.

“I have asked business owners, restaurant people, etc., about how effective the sign holders are,” he said. “I discovered that particularly for stores that don’t have strong street presence or are just opening, it seems effective at letting people know that the place is there. It helps people try new stores by announcing their presence.”

By Joseph Baneth Allen
Publication: Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville)

I have not done any of the cost analysis (nor could I find any done by anyone else online) but I just cannot imagine that this form of advertising to the local community could be more cost-effective than say, doing a promotional products mailing to residents of the area. If you do choose to employ “Costumed Sign Wavers” however, please make them cheerful, and do not have them wear scary masks. Thanks.

1 comment

I totally feel the same way Jaime! I pass the Liberty statues on my way to and from work. I’m not a fan. I do however love the costumed workers at the Halloween stores in October. Puts me in the Halloween spirit. But do we really need to be more scared during tax season?! Aren’t taxes enough without the masks!

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