The humble speed sign is something we come across everyday, change our behaviour as a result (accelerate or decelerate) and yet the signs don't even register a blip on our conscious thinking. And this strikes me as a good illustration of marketing and design principles.
So what are the lessons of the speed sign?
|Apple iPod poster
|Tourism Australia's maligned "Where the Bloody Hell are You?" campaign
4. Moment of truth
The sign only works - for the large part - because it is one element of a bigger context - road rules, policing, education, reinforcement (penalty rather than reward in this case). But whilst the road sign by itself may not be able to change behaviour as a single media with a singular tone and message, it is the ultimate point of behavioural impact - the moment of truth. The lesson here? The speed sign is placed where it is because that's when behaviour is required to change. Think of it like Coke's points of interruption in a convenience store where signage cues you to buy a Coke as you step into the store, head to the fridge and slap your money down on the counter. In order for those points of interruption to sway the consumer's behaviour, the rest of Coca-Cola's marketing and product chain have to work to establish the purchase context.
So the humble speed sign belies it's marketing expertise - it's ability to change behaviour at 60 kms/hour through differentiation, clarity, audience targeting and precision placement. Sounds like an effective marketing campaign to me!