Germs For Sale

A devoted reader of The Awkward Adverb informed us that her neighborhood Walgreens is infamous for its unintentionally funny signs on display throughout the store. She sent us a batch of photos that include:

  • Odd syntax and grammatical mistakes
  • Nonsensical or head-scratching messages
  • Incorrect or confusing math

Although The Awkward Adverb got a good laugh from these signs, we aren't here to make fun of them (or not only to make fun of them). As advocates of good communication, we must also honestly ask whether the signs' poor quality really matters. These signs were put up to boost sales. Do they succeed despite their mistakes?

We would argue that they actually harm sales. Most shoppers, when confronted with a sign saying "Yucky Germs?", would choose not to buy that product. Even without the possibility of infection, these signs leave shoppers puzzled, and confusing marketing messages do not tend to encourage purchases.

How do these signs impact the Walgreens brand? They generate concern from the top. When we wrote an e-mail asking for comment to customer service through the Walgreens website, we were surprised to get a personal call early the next morning from someone pressing for details. However, we declined to provide any and didn't pursue the matter further. In a world of airtight, top-down branding, we preferred to let this store's individual quirks fly under the radar.