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Sticky Branding: Andrew Witkin

Physical Signage, Billboards, and More Are Making Their Comeback

If your clients haven’t already reintroduced in-person marketing, tell them to do so now.




LIFE OVER THE last two and a half years has been so back-and-forth that it sometimes feels like we are on an endless bumper car ride. In March 2020, the world abruptly went virtual, and physical customer interactions almost completely disappeared. A few months later, there were a few breaks as some cities and states allowed limited in-person dining and retail – until the Delta variant of COVID hit and we once again plunged into almost complete isolation. Optimism about the end of the pandemic gained traction in late summer of 2021, but only a few months later the Omicron variant turned the clock back to 2020. It’s been dizzying for everyone, and it has been especially challenging for marketers who wake up every morning wondering if the rules have once again been changed.

So, what is the reality today for marketing and branding teams? The pandemic clearly isn’t over, but at the same time, many sections of our economy are returning to what we used to think of as normal. Most retail stores are open at full capacity, and mask mandates are largely a thing of the past. People are eating in restaurants, attending concerts, and going back to their offices, albeit in lower numbers than before. So, does this mean that companies can simply go back to what they were doing before anyone had ever heard of the novel coronavirus? And more importantly, do pre-pandemic marketing approaches, namely in-person interactions, make sense today?

There is no clear yes or no answer to this question, but what is clear is that successful branding needs to incorporate a physical element to attract attention and stand out from the crowd. One of the most important ways this is playing out is in customer service. Most people don’t think of this as part of marketing and branding, but it’s often the single most important factor in determining whether or not a company is loved or hated. All you need to do is read online reviews to see that most one-star ratings are the result of poor service.

Equally important is creating visibility for your brand. During the darkest days of the pandemic, almost all of this was done online because so many people were living their lives digitally. Now that most countries are back to some semblance of normal, having a physical presence is essential. If you want proof of the importance of Out of Home (OOH) marketing, consider that ads in bus shelters and subways almost disappeared during the pandemic but have roared back to life in the last quarter. This is the canary in the coal mine for the entire OOH advertising industry, and over the next six months we are going to see more signage, billboards, kiosks, and other physical marketing in play.

Live events are a pillar in the marketing world, from tradeshows and sampling to gorilla marketing activations. This is typically where we experience physical marketing at its finest, where marketers can get creative with event setup to stand out among other brands, and swag to giveaway live in exchange for valuable customer data and opinions. This all starts at live event activations, which were once a thing of the past, but have come back with a vengeance.

All of these platforms have a cost, and in many cases, can be out of range for small and midsize businesses. This is where low-cost options such as stickers can help build brand visibility without the hefty price tag. Stickers can be printed in an infinite number of shapes and sizes, and of course companies can customize them any way they want. That not only includes images and messaging, but also additional features such as shape, size, and textures. One of the major advantages of relying on stickers is that people can actually place them in places that matter to them, ranging from laptop computers to cars to their front doors. It’s no accident that so many physical stores and events give free stickers to their customers, knowing that happy consumers want to share their affection and loyalty.


There’s no single marketing approach that’s going to work for every business because every business is different. But the common thread for all companies, regardless of location and industry, is they need to build brand awareness in the physical world as we move past the initial stages of the pandemic. Creative marketers are constantly looking for an advantage, and stickers are a great way to inexpensively and quickly build brand visibility.



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