Digital Signage: How Digital Signage Can Make Brands Memorable
Digital signage appears to be everywhere these days. It's undeniably eye-catching. It gives new life to a tired medium, the static billboard. It appeals to advertisers, who suddenly see their name (and brand) in lights. It's manna for media companies, who can multiply the number of advertisers on a single platform. And digital signage can be an effective means of attracting and engaging consumers. Can be, that is. For digital signage to work, above all, it must leave a memorable impression.
Regrettably, when stripped of the glitz and the novelty, today's digital signage isn't all that far removed from yesterday's static billboards. Youthful as this new medium is, digital signage hasn't come close to achieving its full potential, and it's not yet serving the advertising community or consumers.
What's the problem? Figuratively speaking, digital signage is playing with one hand tied behind its back. To be engaging and effective, digital signage must be interactive. Anything less and advertisers could do just as well splashing their messages on the side of a bus. Most digital signage is flat and uninspiring; it doesn't make a visceral or emotional connection with viewers.
Ironically, what was initially compelling about digital signage – color and movement – is losing whatever impact it had the more pervasive the technology becomes. One-way communication simply doesn't cut it any more. The industry needs to move from monologue to dialogue, and give consumers something back. Multisensory experiences are within reach for consumers, and there's no reason why digital signage should be tethered to a 2-D, 20th century model.
Moving From 2-D to 3-D Displays
What does technology in the service of interactivity look like? For starters, engagement should begin with the consumer's sense of touch via touchscreens and multitouch displays. When someone's fingers do the "talking," interactivity becomes a given and watching quickly morphs into experiencing. Touch-sensitive surfaces can be applied to a vast array of materials, and touch-enabled displays can serve as gateways to a wealth of customized information.
Since the Consumer Electronics Show in January, 3-D displays have captured the popular imagination — and can grab customers' attention just as powerfully. 3-D image displays appear to leap into the viewer's world, and with autostereoscopic 3-D, there's no need for special glasses. Autostereoscopic 3-D displays can be implemented using a variety of technologies, and they're becoming a practical commercial reality. Other forms of 3-D also exist, including hologram printing, a technique that produces three-dimensional images on a flat sheet.
Augmented reality (AR) technology blurs the line between the virtual world and the real world by integrating real-time, interactive 3-D graphics into a live video stream. AR effectively turns viewers from passive spectators to engaged participants, enabling individuals to manipulate a world that only appears "real."
Interactivity, likewise, gets physical via gesture recognition technology, using a camera, computer and display such as an LCD or projection screen. If a visitor wears a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag — say, an RFID-enabled trade show badge — a display or exhibit can automatically reconfigure itself to present personalized content that appeals to that visitor's interests.
The Rules of Attraction
Cool and compelling as these technologies are, they're collectively just a means to an end – tools to create unique storytelling opportunities. Indeed, if the technology isn't immediately accessible or is deemed too confusing, consumers will be put off by it. Cutting edge is good; bleeding edge can be intimidating.
What matters is the retention rate, the nature and level of engagement, and how advertisers can hold consumers longer, communicate messages more effectively, and fully immerse them in their brands. The rules are simple: Attract. Engage. Remember. Digital signage must attract customers' attention, engage them in an experience and have them remember that experience long after it's occurred. Tell me something and I forget it. Show me something and I understand it. Involve me with something and I remember it. Interactivity simply works better.
Just look at the success of the iPhone, iPad and products like them (proof that a display doesn't have to be large to be effective). To deliver on its promise, digital signage must become experiential, and as a result, unforgettable.