New research advocating the role of the personal signature as a consumer engagement tool could offer a seemingly straightforward new way for marketers to build customer loyalty and collect data.

The research by Kettle and Häubl from the University of Alberta’s Business School has found that the act of signing our name has a ‘priming effect’ that serves to unconsciously remind us of our identity, and as such can influence subsequent decisions related to our identity.

To test this ‘signature effect’, Kettle and Häubl conducted a sequence of studies that required participants to sign their name or print their name (or in the control condition, do neither) and then go shopping.  Those who signed their names were considerably more likely to become engaged in choosing and purchasing goods, than those who had either printed their names or not written their name at all.

This new marketing insight is particularly relevant for the strained retail industry fighting against the drop in footfall from the Christmas blizzards and egg-melting Easters, all against the backdrop of economic recovery.  Also, the act of signing your name is synonymous with control and authenticity, which will appeal to uncertain, nervous and risk-averse consumers.  The ‘signature effect’ and its shrewd employment will act as another string to the bow of marketers interested in finding new ways to build and sustain customer relationships.

A signature could help re-invigorate direct mail campaigns. A voucher requiring a signature prior to redemption may revive shoppers’ confidence in spending money on a brand, as shown in the study.

Also bear in mind that the personal signature denotes an agreement; a contract in which the consumer is agreeing to partake in a dialogue with a brand, eliminating the feeling of being marketed or advertised into making a decision.  This is equally true when it comes to collecting data.  In the past there has been a clandestine quality to consumer data and in recent weeks it has been the subject of much media and political attention following admissions that top firms are hoarding customer data without consent. In fact personal signatures could help re-invigorate online data collection. The technology is available to upload their personal signature when interacting with a brand on their website.

The implications of the signature effect could mark a turning point into a new era of data transparency both off and online.  The act of signing ones name symbolises an honest and consensual agreement which resonates within the notion of consumer choice, not simply to engage with brands but also to surrender personal data.  More comprehensive and accurate data is certain to result from this, comprising records of consenting consumers who actively want to be engaged in conversation with a brand.  This is the data that every marketer should strive for.

Victoria Cobbah

Victoria Cobbah


Victoria Cobbah is the Country Manager UK at PLANET49.