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Coffee, Airplane Tray Tables and A Sign!

Coffee, Airplane Tray Tables and A Sign!

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I was surfing through signage websites – a habit I’ve fallen into  late at night when I can’t sleep  — and I read a stat about people’s perception of signage.  If you have a poor quality sign, people believe you have a poor quality product. 

The stat came from a survey commissioned by FedEx Office in 2012. 

This stat makes me think of a business parable I heard years ago about coffee stains and airplane tray tables. I did a little googling and found the coffee stain theory, from Tom. Peters’ In Search of Excellence —

You bought an airline ticket from their great website. You go to the airport, sail through security and encounter courteous staff at the gate. The plane boards efficiently and takes off smoothly and on time. Your impression of this airline is fantastic. Then you lower your tray table. Right in the middle is a nasty, dirty coffee ring stain. You’ve got to get someone to clean it up, but it calls into question the cleanliness of the rest of the plane, and even how well the engines are inspected and maintained! Your impression of the airline so carefully cultivated to this point is dashed.

Paraphrased from In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies

Your signage acts the same as the coffee stain on the tray table — it tells people about your business and its operations and values.  Burnt out light bulbs, spelling mistakes, fading, or cracking, poor visibility, poor legibility — all act as coffee stains to tell people that this business does not prioritize their customer’s experience. 

Creating quality signage doesn’t have to be painful or difficult — it should be a simple, easy experience,  achievable at any budget. If you are searching for excellence in your business and see the value of a quality sign, we would be happy to help.  We’re in the business of cleaning up signage coffee stains — give us a call!


Emma and Dan

Read more on the Coffee Stain Theory:






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