The Missing Piece in Italy

Italy. My homeland, my favorite vacation spot, the most beautiful country on the planet (see point one of you think point three is incorrect) with the best food the world has to offer has horrible signage! My family and I are wrapping up our 5th week here this year & I have yet to not be revolted by the signage, where there is signage.

All of Europe is so much more advanced than North America, in so many different ways. From their vehicles to their furniture, there’s a simplicity yet functionality that we have yet to master on the other side of the pond. The signage here in Italy though makes me cringe. Over the years I have worked on several global signage programs & I have always assumed that it was just the specific programs that were lacking panache. It’s not.

Some grocery stores & McDonalds have illuminated signage. Illuminated with fluorescent bulbs or neon for the most part. Dealerships usually have non-illuminated or flood lit signs & everyone else MAY have a fascia sign. My favorite by far are the pharmacies. Green crosses that some have upgraded from a standard illuminated cross to a green message board promoting their wares.

How do you find where you want to go? How do stores stay alive without branding? My wife, or Google as I refer to her, answered my never ending queries this week. I assume she had become tired of listening to the same question on each car ride as we explore this country. Italy is not a Yelp or Google country, it’s made up of people. Want to find a good bakery, ask someone. A doctor? Ask someone. Soccer shoes? Ask someone. Why would anyone need the expense of elaborate signage when your friends, family & customers can point new customers in your direction?

The Italian model is less about branding & marketing than it is about customer service. In North America businesses can drive traffic via social media campaigns & here it’s all word of mouth. It may change as the younger generations take control, but for now the system works for them. As hard as it is for the sign guy in me, it makes for a beautiful system, even if I’m going three towns over for a jacket for my wife tomorrow.

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