How bars can attract customers with dazzling neon
The importance of a bar’s appearance has heightened in recent years. While the interior design of a venue has always been a top priority, it can now play a pivotal role in an establishment’s success.
With social media becoming a fundamental marketing strategy, businesses now have to consider how photogenic the venue is and whether it’ll attract influencers. As a result, competition has become fierce and businesses in the bar industry are upping their game with striking interiors.
This has led to numerous bar décor trends such as botanical wallpaper, seventies colour palettes, and statement flooring. However, the biggest trend of them all is neon signs.
Graeme Hoole, head of product development at NeonPlus said: “While neon was commonly seen in dive bars through the eighties, it has since re-emerged as a must-have accessory for stylish venues. The evolution of this feature provides the option to use neon to complement a retro or contemporary style.”
In a recent survey conducted by Neon Plus, it was found that over a fifth of respondents said seeing a neon sign in a bar would give them the impression that it’s a fun venue, while almost 20% said it would tell them it’s trendy and modern.
But why has neon become such a popular interior trend for bars, and should you get involved?
How does lighting influence a bar’s atmosphere?
Vibrant and colourful lighting such as neon can help create a party atmosphere and energise customers. Just over 20% of survey respondents believed neon signs would attract a younger crowd and, while 26% thought it would make a bar seem garish, this can work to a venue’s advantage.
Graeme said: “The aesthetic of a bar tells the customers the type of night they can expect, whether that be a boozy night filled with plenty of laughs and dancing or a sophisticated evening with cocktails and catch-ups with friends.”
Jimmy’s Liverpool is a bar that features an entire wall dedicated to colourful neon signs and another displaying lava lamps. The use of red, blue, green and yellow exudes excitement and happiness. Their love of gimmicky décor including animal print furniture, psychedelic patterned walls, and disco balls, adds to their rock ‘n’ roll party aesthetic.
Hetty Wheeler, architectural designer at architecture and interior design firm, Shh, said: “Neon signs can be found in the most vibrant cities such as London, New York, Tokyo and Las Vegas. Inserting this type of light into bars and clubs can often emulate stimulating and lively environments and create a dynamic contrast against low-lit interiors.”
But neon can be tailored to create many other types of ambience. A sophisticated cocktail bar inspired by Hollywood Regency with velvet soft furnishings, jewel tones, and brass accents, can be elevated with a simple neon sign in pink cursive writing. A playful phrase such as ‘good vibes only’ or a sign of the bar’s name can feel welcoming and create a glamorous and upbeat setting.
Hetty continued: “Neon signs and lights can spread messages effectively through their strong perpetual glow. Depending on the colours and size, neon lights bring a modern, vibrant twist to illumination.”
A casual and cool bar with understated décor that is perfect for a few after-work drinks, could display a playful neon sign saying, ‘what’s your poison?’ or ‘alcohol you later’ in white or blue.
“A more relaxed atmosphere can equally be created by reducing that vivid contrast with softer tones of neon light over pale surfaces to produce calm and comfortable interiors,” Hetty added.
Can neon signs enhance branding?
A neon sign can reflect branding with signature typography and colours, or displaying any slogans the company has. Consistent marketing can make the brand memorable to ensure customers return.
Graeme said: “Signage can embody the brand’s values and beliefs. For example, if the company is passionate about feminist issues, this can be mirrored with fun neon signs saying ‘girl power’ or ‘support your local girl gang’.”
An eye-catching neon sign can generate free advertising by encouraging customers to take photos at the venue and post them on Instagram. If the social media users tag the venue, it can lure more people to the bar.
Hetty said: “Overcrowd a seating area with bright and boisterous neon’s to create a surreal, vintage atmosphere perfect for a social media shot, or accentuate dark corners with contrasting and quirky signage that may highlight a vibrant wallpaper otherwise lost.”
What are the practical uses of neon signs?
Neon signs can be used to direct customers around the venue. It can highlight where the toilets are and also drive attention to the dancefloor and bar to encourage people to buy more drinks and enjoy the night. Neon can often be more practical than traditional signs as the bright light is hard to miss, even in dimly lit bars and clubs.
Offers such as ‘happy hour’ can also be promoted with neon signs, to ensure customers are aware of the latest deal. The bar’s name and ‘open’ signs can also be lit up in neon to entice people into the venue.
Hetty continued: “Neon signs are commonly used for their bright, clear light that can be seen from far distances, and because of this, will always grab the attention of passers-by.
“Neon signs will usually attract attention so they are best placed in focal areas. A unique and intriguing sign may encourage those onlookers to take a peek into what are sometimes dimly lit and uninviting interiors. Neon also allows for the creation of bespoke shapes and lettering exclusive to your venue.”
Some bar owners may be concerned about the practicality of neon signs. However, LED lighting, known as faux-neon, can be used as an alternative to neon. It is made with plastic tubing instead of glass, making it easier and quicker to produce, and more durable. LED lighting is also far cheaper to run than traditional neon.
The interior design of a bar is the perfect excuse for businesses to get creative and showcase the brand’s personality. A bespoke neon sign can make an impact on customers and allow businesses to put their stamp on the trend, which doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.