Lifestyle: Chalking Up Laughter?

By Michele Bacigalupo

The marketing strategy behind a chalkboard sign has seemingly endless possibilities. Many restaurants, bars, and various places of business incorporate the children’s learning tool in order to appeal to customers. A chalkboard’s medium, with its bright colors and air of impermanence, invites employees to have fun while composing a message.

Creativity and personality certainly come into play on the chalkboard, but storeowners and staffers need to stay cognizant of how a phrase may be interpreted.

For example, a replica of a beloved cartoon character is bound to attract the attention of passersby. Fans of the show can appreciate the animated outline, typically accompanied by a witty exclamation associated with the character’s trademark personality. While a stray pedestrian may laugh or nod in approval at the sign, the interaction may cease to continue from there. Evoking a laugh does not necessarily translate to a person actually entering the establishment and purchasing an item.

Since humor is largely correlated to personality, a specific joke may not work on everybody. Some people may walk away bewildered, and potentially opposed to ever stepping foot into a store at all, after reading a sign that boasts of “the worst meatball sandwich that one guy ever had.”

Chalkboards with such outrageous declarations are helpful in allowing employees to vent frustration. Numerous signs poke fun at competitors, or opt to take the route of self-deprecation. However, these ironic pleas for business are often more amusing to a location’s staff than they are to the public.

A chalkboard that displays a peculiar message is more likely to dissuade a potential customer from coming in than to welcome him, especially if the individual has never entered the store before. Similar to an individual’s comfort level with a new person, portraying a business as too offbeat may baffle consumers, driving them far away from the front door.

Some of the most effective chalkboard phrases are ones that maintain relevancy. A comment about the weather works well because people are constantly walking outside in the midst of it, experiencing the rain, sun, or snow head-on.

On the opposite side of things, an outdated proclamation about the weather is certainly not an effective business model. If a chalkboard bemoans a rainstorm and reality contains a cloudless blue sky, people are wary to trust the respective establishment. Such a sign may cause passersby to wonder whether the store has had any customers all day, since the chalkboard artist seems to be hours behind the times.

All photos by Michele Bacigalupo.