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January 19, 2022

The enigmatic case of neon signage

One of the latest marketing fads has seen advertisers use the power of nostalgia in order to evoke emotional responses from a target audience. Due to a handful of cognitive biases, this form of promotion is exceptionally powerful and has been shown to have positive effects on both brand awareness and sales. While there are a multitude of strategies for brands to evoke nostalgic feelings, signage has quickly become a popular medium for trendy venues to demonstrate a retro ambiance. This article digs deeper into how a nostalgia obsessed generation has brought neon signage back from the dead.

In the 20’s and 30’s, neon signs became a captivating phenomenon and were seen as a staple of the bustling commercial intersection of Times Square. Skip forward to the 60’s and while that infamous red neon glow temporarily become synonymous with some of the world’s seedier areas, these solutions proceeded to swiftly evolve into an art form of sorts with businesses flocking to create unique and eye-catching signage. While the golden age of neon was long-lived, the popularisation of LED in the 90s saw businesses slowly start to ditch the outdated look. The gradual move away from these solutions meant that by the mid-2010’s, the neon industry looked to be on borrowed time. With LED’s getting cheaper and more energy efficient, it seemed as though the end was near.

Thankfully this was not the case. As we edged towards a new decade, the saying “everything old is new again” began to make a lot of sense with neon signs, polaroids and a handful of other 20th century items making a resurgent comeback. The question therefore becomes why. Why are bright neon signs that were considered overly gaudy just 10 years ago now a popular feature of stylish nightclubs, bars, and restaurants? The answer has to do with an inherent obsession about the past. To put it simply, people seek experiences and/or items that embody a period which they associate with happiness and simplicity. For older generations, neon signs are synonymous with a time when they were coming of age and seeing these signage solutions can therefore induce warm memories.

Perhaps paradoxically, neon and other vintage memorabilia have also formed into nostalgic symbols for the Gen Z demographic – despite the fact that this group was born after ~1996. While this generation’s obsession with a time period in which they were not alive is baffling to many, it does present businesses with a plethora of fantastic opportunities. Many venues now encompass an 80’s-90’s inspired aesthetic to target patrons aged in their teens and early 20’s.

Surprisingly, the use of neon solutions has not strictly been limited to trendy venues – Australian supermarket giant Woolworths has also jumped on the fad utilising neon solutions throughout its Double Bay outlet. Boasting a CV Media & Signage created solution, “The Kitchen” aims to create a more authentic customer journey through an aesthetically pleasing rustic marketplace design.

With nostalgia providing our lives with a sense of continuity and meaning, many people continue to seek experiences/items that will help them reminisce or relive the past. Neon signage is fast becoming a trendy medium that is being used to evoke these positive associations from consumers’ minds, taking them back to a simpler time.


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