The Brandwriting Index - report reveals damage done to high-street brands

International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management

ISSN: 0959-0552

Article publication date: 18 July 2008



(2008), "The Brandwriting Index - report reveals damage done to high-street brands", International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 36 No. 9.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The Brandwriting Index - report reveals damage done to high-street brands

Article Type: Retail reports From: International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Volume 36, Issue 9

  • about 63 per cent of British consumers question credibility of companies using handwritten marketing materials;

  • shoppers believe companies using handwritten signs have inferior quality products/services;

  • about 68 per cent of consumers feel handwritten signs should be left to market stalls;

  • about 40 per cent* of typical UK high-street stores use handwritten signs;

  • two-thirds have difficulty reading handwritten signs; and

  • report shows how consumers react to different styles of handwriting; and how this may be at odds with a company’s brand.

Source: Gecko Brandwriting Index

A unique new report issued may force high-street companies up and down the country to rethink their customer-facing marketing strategies

The first “Brandwriting Index” commissioned by Gecko, a specialist in web-to-print marketing, shows that consumers find handwritten signage, posters and offers a huge turn-off - two-thirds (63 per cent) question the credibility of stores that use them; while just 12 per cent have any trust in signs that have been handwritten.

The overwhelming majority (91 per cent) find poor spelling and grammar annoying, but perhaps the most damning finding is that 55 per cent of high-street shoppers have considered taking their custom elsewhere because of a spelling or grammar mistake (see “Consumer research results”).

The report could make uncomfortable reading for brand ambassadors who invest millions of pounds establishing and protecting their products and services globally, yet who can disregard it on a local level, where potentially untrained personnel are left to make their own interpretations and impart their own handwriting styles.

Additional snap-shot research revealed that 40 per cent* of outlets on a typical British high street - including leading banks, book sellers, travel agents, music stores and electrical retailers - were using handwritten signage or marketing collateral in a consumer-facing capacity.

Andy Milner, Development Director of Gecko who commissioned the first Brandwriting Index, said: “UK companies spend millions annually developing their brands, creating brand books, and then implementing these processes and procedures across their organisations”:

Yet it is often these shop floor customer messages that can sometimes fail to reflect the brand values and which can at the very least start to unravel all the other work, and potentially start to damage reputation.

National retailers with multiple UK stores appear to be the most regular offenders - our report shows that on a typical UK high street up to 40 per cent of national brands are still using some sort of handwritten customer communication.

Some of the country’s best known brands are essentially leaving important customer communications to staff, perhaps even part-timers or temps, most probably untrained in sign-writing and without a full understanding of the company’s brand values.

Why invest so much time and resource on corporate brand identity when locally - where the product or service is literally in the shop window - it is often being overlooked?

There’s no doubting, in the right hands and in the right context, a skilled signwriter can produce superb handwritten customer communication - in fact, offer-led signs can work better with a handwritten appearance as the style suggests just-reduced prices.

At Gecko our web-to-print products allow companies, especially those with multiple UK sites, a cost-effective solution that gives absolute control of their brand at every level.

It allows even the most junior of staff to produce ad hoc customer communications that uphold the organisation’s corporate identity and brand values.

Commenting on the Brandwriting Index, Dr Jonathan Reynolds, Director of the Oxford Institute of Retail Management and a Fellow in Retail Marketing at Templeton College, Oxford University, said:

This research serves to remind us that shoppers increasingly expect professional communications from retailers - and that inappropriate, hastily handwritten signs send all the wrong signals, and may even damage the brand.

Informal handwritten signage may work in certain circumstances - communicating the ‘just arrived’ nature of a special offer, or a temporary price reduction - but its use still needs to be carefully limited and controlled.

Brands such as Lush, which use pre-printed and handwritten-style signage in carefully controlled circumstances, serve to demonstrate how handwriting can contribute to a friendlier, more informal store ambience, whilst still meeting a brand’s communications goals.

Gecko took a random, snap-shot survey of 30 high-street stores in the city of Leeds.

Source: Elaine Quigley/Gecko Brandwritting Index

For more information, e-mail:; Adrian@lucre

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