Is this a sign?

He saw the sign, but still asked anyway, even though he knew what the answer would be.

Then two other people did exactly the same thing – read the sign, understood it, and still asked.

The sign read – “POOL CLOSED”.

I look forward to my Sunday morning, daddy-daughter swimming date and having to find another pool was a hassle I’d rather not have.

It was while I was assembling my sextant, weather charts and maps to begin my search for another pool, that I saw these three people read the sign, understand it, but still ask:

“Excuse me, is the pool closed?”.

I don’t know what they expected to hear.

“Yes, it is. Why? Wait… the “POOL CLOSED” sign gang haven’t struck again, have they?”

Maybe they were expecting an, “…actually, for everyone else, it’s closed, but that was a test in persistence – you passed! Congratulations – you can come in… Just don’t tell anyone else…”

There’s a lesson here – having a clear message isn’t enough!

It also needs to COMPEL the reader to act on it.

What is the purpose of the “POOL CLOSED” sign?

If you said, “to let customers know that the pool is closed”, give yourself half a mark.

The real purpose of a “POOL CLOSED” sign is to let customers know that the pool is closed AND to stop them from bothering staff all day.

It’s really a “POOL CLOSED…and please don’t ask the staff whether we’re open – they have better things to do” sign.

Now we have a clear and specific message, how do we compel people to act on it?

“POOL CLOSED” won’t cut it. If you need proof of this, observe how people react to a “WET PAINT” sign. The first thing they do is touch the paint to check.

I see this in my magic act. Part of my card routine involves someone writing on a playing card. I uncap a Sharpie and pass it over. “Don’t sniff it”, I say. “It’s got Rohypnol on!”.

50% of people still sniff it.

What improvements could you make to the “POOL CLOSED” sign, so that people act on it?

How could you have some fun with this?

“POOL CLOSED! Honestly. No, please don’t go to reception and check – it really is closed.”

“POOL CLOSED! Yes, really. You could go to reception and ask if it’s open, but we’ll charge you £5 to do this…

…or £6.50 if your name is Colin.”

“POOL CLOSED. Yes, THIS pool – right here. It’s shut ALL DAY today. If you really don’t believe us, go to position 2 and ask…”.

(put a mannequin with a massive “YES, THE POOL IS CLOSED” sign around their neck at position 2)

Next time you create something you want your customers to take action on, make sure it’s clear, but don’t forget to also make it easy and enticing for them to take action on.

Have a great week!

[I’m still working on coming up with a snappy sign off]


P.S. Got anything you’re working on at the moment? Struggling over some copy? Looking for a new angle or twist on a piece of marketing?

Don’t struggle alone. Two heads are better than one, even when one of them is mine. Hit reply and I’ll be happy to help with anything*.

*Excludes heavy lifting, eating Tofu or watching anything starring Sarah Jessica Parker.