What Is That Sign For, Anyway?

TinersTakeDS-featuredIf you have been dealing with digital signage over the past decade, you are well versed in the idea that content is king. If that is the case, then why is it so darn hard to figure out good content? These questions were circling around my mind over the past few months as I got to do some traveling around my state and around the country. I think many of us tend to think of digital signage in a very prescribed way.

In our minds we think digital signage is a electronic monitor that sits on a wall and has bulletins go by. These bulletins can provide information to a customer, try and garner a sale or perhaps enrich an experience. This is true, in many cases, but I think we are preoccupied with our ideas of how these uses should look.

Let me examine a few examples I have encountered over the past few months that will help demonstrate my point. In January my son and I took a ski trip to Sugarloaf Mountain. It is a fantastic mountain with some great runs, if you can stand the bitter cold and biting winds. In the lodge, there are digital signs. The signs tell you the current status of the ski lifts. If you are not a skier, then you need to know that at the mountains lifts are periodically shut down due to wind. This is nothing genius, or fancy, but fantastic for their customers. No longer do I have to go outside and take a hike to see if the lift I want to use is open. Rather, I can sit in the nice warm lodge and simply watch the sign. Perhaps, this even helps their business. I know that since I had a nice warm seat, and would know as soon as the lifts opened up, I decided to grab a nice cold beer and relax.

A second example was at the Portland Jetport. Yeah, I know, not that far from home, but that is missing the point.  There is a store in the mall called Cool as a Moose. It is a typical airport store selling “Maine”-ish things (you know, Maple Syrup, lobster shaped candy, Baked Beans). However, outside the store is a digital sign in portrait mode. I am not sure if the sign is affiliated with the store or not. The sign is advertising Down East Magazine. The brilliant piece is that it is simply a digital copy of the magazine that advances every 30 seconds or so. The other brilliant piece is the placement. It is outside a store that is Maine themed, advertising a magazine published in Maine, as people are leaving from their vacations. So, you get time to look at each page of the current magazine. That will hopefully inspire you to go inside the store and buy the magazine, which will hopefully encourage you to subscribe. Also brilliant is the ability to track the effectiveness of the sign. Down East could easily tag the subscription cards in the magazines at that particular store, and track how many subscriptions come from it.

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The Portland Jetport is just finishing up some major renovations, and they have several other locations in which digital signs are going up. I do not know their desired intent, but if the concept is from the same group that put the Down East sign up, I am really interested to see what becomes of them.

The final example is a negative example. In March, I was visiting a zoo in Florida with my family. The name of the zoo will be left out to protect the guilty. In the gift shop was a digital sign with a looping video of giraffes. There was no explanation for this video. They were not trying to sell copies of the DVD, they didn’t have any giraffes stuffed animals, and while they had giraffes at the zoo, they were not the highlight. So, in the end, I could only determine that somewhere along the way, they were convinced that a digital sign was needed in a retail point of sale. They were never told on how to use that digital sign though. It also annoyed my family, because I stood there staring at the sign, and then around the store, trying to figure out the purpose. They convinced me to leave without asking the manager, “What is that sign for anyway?”

I have to admit. I am writing this article on April Fools Day. When I wrote about the airport, I almost wrote about how they have these amazing monitors that tell you when planes are arriving and departing. But I figured that by the time you read this column, it would well past the first, and you would just decide I was a bit behind the times.

What are your experiences? Do you sell education on how to properly use signs when you sell the signs? Or do you figure that is not your area of expertise? I look forward to hearing from you.