Digital signage: The art and science of visual communications

Photos courtesy 10net Managed Solutions

Photos courtesy 10net Managed Solutions

By Tracy Grant

When one hears the term ‘digital signage,’ the first thing that comes to mind is the technology—or, more specifically, the hardware—behind such mainstream applications as menu boards and video walls. Technology, however, is just the means to an experience; it is not an experience in itself.

This is an important distinction because, increasingly, experiences matter. Gartner, a prominent market research and advisory company, surveyed businesses in 2014 about their marketing budgets and found 89 per cent (compared to just 36 per cent in 2010) expected to compete with each other primarily on the basis of customer experience (CX) by 2016.

For their brands to continue to grow today, they need to deliver an unforgettable CX journey. The first step is for this journey to be designed, which requires a focus on the customer’s needs and a willingness to challenge the established norms, so the brand will stand out from its competition. All of this is possible with the flexibility of digital signage as a communications medium.

“Projects that start with a focus on the hardware or software often fail,” says James Fine, founder and owner of Telecine, a Montreal-based media company that specializes in digital signage, “while projects that start and stay focused on goals and objectives almost always succeed.”

The art
When seeking to create an immersive and memorable experience through digital signage, the first question to answer is, “Why?” That is to say, what is the client’s objective for the project? It may be to increase brand awareness, sales revenue or simply competitiveness within the marketplace. To not only answer but fully appreciate this question, it is important for digital signage providers to understand their clients inside and out, including their hopes, worries, strengths and needs.

This leads to the second priority: content. In all digital signage deployments, it is content that informs an audience, establishes a style, spans various touchpoints and ultimately creates the overall experience. Indeed, many professionals in the industry say the experience starts with the content.

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This is when creative agencies and designers get involved in a project. It is important for them not to take the audience for granted. Research into what customers want and need will help them deliver authentic, valuable messaging. Context is what gives content its true value.

There are several building blocks for creative an immersive experience with content:

Story
Stories form people’s memories. So, the way content is designed to deliver a narrative will, to a large degree, dictate how memorable the viewing experience will be for the audience. Again, for the client, this is a matter of putting the customer first.

“Stories are how we connect with each other,” says entrepreneur and author Alan Webber. “They provide context. They provide community.”

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