Are you thinking of designing a billboard for your small business? We’ve reached out to marketing professionals and small business owners who’ve used outdoor advertising to market their businesses, and we’re sharing their outstanding billboard design tips below. We’ll also share our favorite billboard marketing tips, too. Let’s get started.
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Billboard Design Tips
1. Use a strong image to grab your audience.
Mars Incrucio, Founding Member, Matchr
We’ve found that a strong image can be much more effective than oversaturating with text. Our current design simply features a model and a hashtag, and we’re very pleased with the ROI.
2. Use a simple website address.
Max Cron, Creative Strategy Director, Online Optimism
Having a successful billboard relies on two factors. The attention grabbing factor, and the call to action factor. This usually is in the form of an image and text. People don’t have enough time to write down a phone number while driving, so stick to words. A funny or eye catching photo and a quick simple email address or website is the perfect billboard.
3. Reiterate on a familiar theme.
Marilyn Heywood Paige, Vice President – Marketing, FigAdvertising.com
Decide first what you want your billboard to accomplish. Is there a call to action? Is it simply name recognition? Is it to direct traffic to your storefront? Decide the billboards primary purpose and message accordingly.
Make sure your logo is scalable and translates well on a billboard.
Retrofitness in Philadelphia has a logo with gradient color which is just indecipherable to the eye at speeds over 45 miles an hour. (It’s not great standing still either.)
Make sure your message makes sense.
Grotto Pizza in Rehobeth Beach Delaware had a billboard for years that was a photo of their pizza and the words, Grotto Pizza, you can almost taste it. So, if I go to their restaurant, I won’t be able to taste it, or I will be able to?
Reiterate on a familiar theme. Chick-Fil-A billboards are brilliant because they reiterate the theme of eat chicken instead of beef in creative, surprising ways. This only works for established brands and messages.
Less is more. Keep the message less than 5 words whenever possible. If you can’t drive by at 65 miles an hour and completely absorb the meaning, it’s too long, or too cryptic.
4. Acknowledge what your customer is doing!
Yasin Abbak, Co Founder, Paired Media
The two BIGGEST contributors to the success of a campaign are DESIGN and CONTEXT.
For billboard design, use white space, simple sans serif fonts, bold contrasting colors, and keep the messaging simple.
As far as context goes, Acknowledge what your customer is doing! For a billboard, the message at the mouth of a slow moving tunnel should be different than a billboard on the side of a fast moving highway. You might reference the traffic, or the beautiful mountains in the distance. With our product, that means acknowledging that the reader is hungry, or is using their hands. They might be on lunch break after a stressful morning. These are all opportunities to have a relevant, contextually aware conversation.
5. Remember your audience is hopefully moving by quickly
Oliver Hayen, CMO, SOMA Messenger
Our tips for creating the best billboard…use very few words to get to the point. Remember your audience is hopefully moving by quickly and they have a few seconds to read your ad. Be fun! Be unique! And sell!!
6. Put a billboard on the back of a bike.
Richard Pawlowski, Bike Billboards
The movement of the bike billboard makes them irresistible to the eye. Bike billboards are not only inexpensive, effective, reusable and very mobile. They go where other ads cannot and they WORK for almost any kind of startup and/or event/promotion (even elections :-). If you want more info and/or a review copy of my ebook (about using bikes for promotion and business building) just let me know.
7. Shorten your message for the biggest impact.
Robert Evans Wilson, Jr., Speaker-Humorist, Jumpstart Your Meeting
… Saw it on I-75 South heading into Atlanta, Georgia. It was exciting to see — like spotting the nearly extinct ivory-billed woodpecker. But this was no rare bird; it was a perfect ad. Perhaps just as rare. Five words in black print against a pale purple ground. No design. No graphic device at all. No need; the words said it all. Two of those words were even from the top-ten list of words that generate the strongest response. To read more click here.
8. Create a clear call to action for every billboard.
Skye Callan, Business Strategist, MeetGeraldine
Consider the influencers in that geographic location, and what’s hot in attracting your target audience: i.e. utilizing artists to do eye-catching custom work, such as incorporating a street art influence, might do well in advertising to the hip, urban audience.
Consider the medium of the billboard: I’ve designed ads for digital billboards, that ended up having a negative impact on my brand because the owner of the billboard wasn’t maintaining the billboard well, and dead pixels and/or blue screen of death messed with my designs or caused my ad to not be shown at all (some billboards often have these issues, and viewers may have a negative association with that billboard; thus, you may not want to utilize it in your campaign).
Along those lines, some audiences may have specific feelings towards digital billboards vs. static ones (something to consider).
Overall: make sure your call to action/point of having the billboard is clear — or, keep it mysterious enough so as to drive people to your website (an example would be the recent I’M HERE/IM.com billboard campaign running in the SF Bay Area, where the billboards just show a beautiful image and list the tagline and/or URL).
Too many times have I passed a billboard repeatedly, yet still do not have any idea what it’s trying to sell/say/portray. I’ve even been the passenger in a car, where the driver asked me what a billboard was for, and I couldn’t tell, despite being the one with undivided attention on it. Remember that your audience is, or should be, focused on driving – or is passing by the billboard via bus, carpool, etc. at a higher speed than someone sitting right in front of the billboard, so your message needs to be large and clear. Don’t waste your money on small font and images that don’t tell your story!
9. Keep it simple!
The best billboards are the ones with an eye-catching photo or design, and very little text. One of my favorites was a billboard for a local restaurant that highlighted their crab dip; a customer favorite. Call to action was a simple statement to visit the restaurant. Every time I drove by that sign, I drooled!
10. Only have one message.
Ron Yates, Yates & Co Jewelers, Inc.
And make it simple. People driving by at 60 mph do not have long enough to read much. So for them to read it, make it short and sweet. Use humor. A humorous message stays in the brain longer. A typical billboard stating what a business does and where they are at will not stand out amid all the cluttered advertising that we see daily.Humor also gets people talking about the billboard, so you get some free word of mouth.
Make it very readable. This means using LARGE fonts that are easy to read. And the text needs contrast with the background. A text color that matches the background will not be very readable. Consider how the colors will look in different lighting. Lighting of course varies throughout the day.
A big thanks to everyone who shared their tips! Here are a few additional billboard design tips to help you create your own billboard. If you’d like to learn about pricing billboards, check out this resource guide: How Much Does Billboard Advertising Cost?
More billboard design tips
- Create a simple layout. Don’t try to do too much on your billboard. A driver, speeding by at 65 mph, won’t be able to take a detailed message– no matter how many times they see the same image.
- Use a striking color scheme. Go for two or three colors to instantly engage but harmonize with each other.
- Go with large font sizes. You have seconds, not minutes. Don’t expect drivers to read a lengthy text.
- Don’t get fancy with your fonts. Choose sans serif fonts (fonts without decorative flourishes). Sans serif fonts are quicker to read when every second makes a difference.
- Focus on one single image. This makes it easier for your audience to understand your message.
- Make that image large. Smaller images are frustrating.
- Leave white space. Don’t feel the need to fill the entire billboard with unnecessary stuff that clutters the message.
- Focus on one idea. You don’t have to say everything on one billboard.
- Make it easy for the customer to reach you. Be clear– use an easy to remember website address or phone number.
- Use emotions to immediately engage passersby. Incorporate feelings like happiness, fear, and desire to bypass logic and instantly connect.
- Go with less than seven words. Get to the point quickly.
- Laser-focus on one target audience. There may be a lot of passersby, but you’re only speaking to the one group who will actually buy from you.
- Test, test, and test again. Show a miniature version your billboard to a few people for only 10 seconds and see if people can understand your message.
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