Valley Bank’s colorful, abstract sign concept announces a contemporary brand

‘Activating the attract zone in an urban setting allows banks to create a mood, tell a story and start to draw people in to a branded experience.’

By Craig Colgan

They call it a “brand beacon” or “media channel.” Valley Bank’s new Fifth Avenue flagship branch recently became home to one of Manhattan’s biggest and boldest interior signs. At the end of 2022, the bank debuted a colorful, curved prototype surface display wall, bringing a bold energy out into the neighborhood. The aim is a branch that stands out in the ultra-competitive New York banking market.

The display features a curved PixelFlex LED display and embraces a ‘staccato’ surface layout. Answering questions for us on the project and on trends in bank signage are Mark Beausoleil, EVP, director of retail banking at Valley Bank, and from Adrenaline, the bank’s agency partner on the project: Jerry Reese, group account director, digital technology, and Rick Barrick, senior director, digital programs:

What is the concept behind these signs?

Beausoleil: The concept behind the signage was to make a bold statement that Valley is a modern and progressive bank and to highlight and raise visibility for our new Fifth Avenue flagship branch. We wanted to create a vehicle for visual storytelling, as well as build brand awareness. We’ve had very positive feedback from existing and prospective customers who are very impressed by the signage and see Valley has a more modern bank with the same great customer experience.

It almost seems like a giant piece of art for the neighborhood. Is that part of the plan?

Beausoleil: Yes, we wanted to make a bold statement in this heavily trafficked area of Manhattan and also create an attractive and compelling visual display.

Do you think design and art and contemporary styling make an impact in how bank branches are viewed by customers and potential customers?

Beausoleil: I do believe that customers have a different view of Valley as a result of a more contemporary branch design. We are now viewed as a modern, forward-thinking bank that offers the latest in technology with the same focus on relationship banking.

What are some trends in all signage for banks?

Barrick: In banking where so many branch networks use the hub-and-spoke model, one of the keys to success is creating dynamic spaces in the hubs, where banks have great expertise and offerings, including in commercial banking, small businesses, wealth management, etc. These larger full-service branches are often found in urban areas where the population density is high.

When you start to strategize how you physically treat the space in these high-opportunity areas, the branch really becomes a media channel to engage more passers-by, either from a pedestrian or automobile perspective. Signage like what Valley Bank installed in their Fifth Avenue flagship allows them to drive a higher number of gross impressions and deliver greater ROI for that branch.

Activating the attract zone in an urban setting allows banks to create a mood, tell a story and start to draw people in to a branded experience. In high traffic areas, banks can influence prospects and start to establish the brand. We work with banks to map the right message to dwell times when pedestrians or drivers are at traffic lights, enabling signage to tell a story that connects emotionally and putting the brand in a better position in the consideration set for a primary banking relationship.

The best signage uses a hierarchy of messaging. At the top is a dominant brand perspective that has broad scale and gets smaller at a more human eye level. We also use a combination of first surface and second surface, sometimes putting signage right up against the glass, whether it’s digital or a static vinyl application. Further back, the digital is a canvas where primary and secondary brand colors interact and become a dynamic motion filled backdrop. Like with Valley Bank, these kinds of multi-level, multi-layered textures represent some of most impactful signs.

Reese: I would add that effective deployment requires deep knowledge of tailored technologies that will bring the creative to life. As a client partner, one of our primary responsibilities is to provide clients these unique options from a technology or display standpoint to execute on these concepts. These signage solutions must be visually effective, cost effective and operationally effective. So it’s not just the design and the concepts that matter, but the physical and technical decisions that go with them that makes a successful signage strategy.

How can banks make better use of their signage?

Reese: I would say one thing that we see consistently as an area of improvement across banks of all sizes is that they tend to take a one-size-fits-all approach to branch messaging. When everything’s the same consistent message regardless of the area, it doesn’t take into account anything specific about the variations in the audience or the customer demographics of that branch.

So, one of the things that we guide clients to do is to leverage information—customer data, community demographic data—as a baseline to target messaging more effectively. That customization allows banks to deliver messaging, whether it’s static or digital, in a way that is more tailored to the specific branch in the community and the customer base that it serves.

This more strategic approach lets banks leverage the tools and technologies to create a more powerful communication channel with their customers.

Can design and art and contemporary styling make an impact in how bank branches are viewed by customers and potential customers?

Barrick: Yes. I think it’s important to know that you’re always communicating something about the brand, so it’s not just art for art’s sake, even with large scale canvases like the Valley Bank sign. In designing signage we want the experience to be connected to emotions the brand wants to evoke in people. So, if a bank wants to be perceived as technically savvy, that’s an important thing to reinforce emotionally. We’re looking at how we say that visually, as opposed to being hyper-literal.

What we’re going for is a pretty emotive quick punches where people say, ‘Wow, that’s so cool’ when they experience this visually stunning display. And it’s associated with the brand because the brand imbedded in that creative experience—that’s how the brain interprets it. It’s also fun to play with scale, with hierarchy with first and second surface for some depth of visual presentation and all those interesting ways to choreograph a really cool experience. It’s kind like a Broadway play, right? Where you’ve got a backdrop, you’ve got some elements in the middle and in the front, and they’re all there to tell this complete story.

Reese: One of the things I think doesn’t often get enough consideration is the medium through which the brand attributes are communicated. By that I mean if what you’re trying to convey is modern tech-savvy brand, the medium through which that message gets communicated in the branch should not be a detraction. Using a very old digital display, for example, doesn’t tell your customers that you’re a modern forward thinking, tech savvy bank. So, we guide our clients to be mindful of not only the message itself, but the medium itself and keeping that consistent with what the brand wants to communicate and what the customer experiences in other brand channels, as well.

For the Valley Bank branch, is the large view actually into the interior space part of the concept? What is the goal with that?

Barrick: Larger scale signage is at the top of the message hierarchy, acting as master signage. It’s almost as a mood ring for the brand and a way to artfully reflect your place in the community and the seasons in the area, etc. These signs tie in visuals of the master brand and weave them into the fabric of place to make connections with people in the market.

When these signs are first deployed, they’re often new to the market and make a big bold brand statement. The signage represents a declarative position that ‘we’re here to stay’ or that ‘we belong in the community’ but delivers that message in a creative, more human and emotion oriented way. It’s done visually and viscerally to evoke an emotional response. Signage like this is much quicker way to connect emotionally than anything that’s a more literal, verbal interpretation of the brand.

Ultimately it is an intentional part of the overall space design to leverage the glass as a way to shine a spotlight on the brand. But, these large master brand experiences are meant to be viewed from afar, in a way that when you see it, even just fleetingly for a few seconds, it connects through that visual experience. That’s how we design it technically, creatively and programmatically.

Photography by John Muggenborg:


About Author