This week, I found myself sitting in the middle of a two-day long global introduction and planning session. Key figures all across the board. The purpose of the meeting was essentially to solve problems and come to an agreeable solution – one that would work for everyone. Presentations would go on and then conversation throughout the middle of them and then we’d do it all again. Lots of languages. Accents that were both intimidating and invigorating. It was an open and free flowing atmosphere, particularly given the objective of the meeting. It was actually surprisingly great. I was happy in so many ways to be a part of it.
Yes, there were some excellent points raised that no one had considered and there were some equally excellent solutions that came about real-time. But the best thing about it to me was – despite all of the cultural differences, the accents, the nomenclature, the overt and underhanded jokes, there were many more commonalities – bright, creative thinking, respect, openness, love of coffee and/or tea to name a few. But the biggest of all were the smiles.
The simple act of smiling.
I found myself at one time during the meeting just looking around the table looking at everyone smiling. And actually, I have to say, there were some really great smiles. It made me smile. Big.
Then, it got me thinking. About content and engaging with people and being interesting and coming up with whatever creative solutions we can come up with to make someone stop and take notice of this content or that content and do something with it. I instantly stripped everything down its core and thought about the smile.
Maybe many of our troubles as it relates to the “silver bullet” (as if there is one) of content, in or out of the home, gets down to that one simple, shared expression.
So, I’m going to give it a try. I’m going to begin a briefing with, “what makes you smile?” And then apply it to whatever problem we’re trying to solve. Who knows if it will work. Coke has shown us (via Open Happiness) that it is a great foundation to strengthen a huge brand. But will it work for everyone/everything?
I do know this – if you’re looking for a theme, a through-line that will connect with people, regardless of where they are in the world, look no further than simple human commonalities. And maybe begin with the smile.
We are swimming in new ways to connect and beyond that, what it all actually means.
Social. Mobile. Out of Home. Digital Out of Home. Connections. Experience.
This is a complicated world that we operate in, no doubt. As brand, marketers and communicators, this world is constantly changing. As consumers, we’re unlocking new ways to connect each day, ways that we did not know were there yesterday. This sort of evolution and discovery occurs everysingleday.
It’s as if the Pandora’s Box of technology has opened to the point of no closure.
On one hand, it’s exciting. On another hand, it’s maddening. It’s a bombard of variables to navigate and manipulate, all in an effort to get (or deliver) the right message at the right time to do the right thing. That’s what we all want, right?
“Screens” of old are just that – old. They’re ubiquitous. They’re a commodity. Even the one in our pocket. They’re only mechanisms of delivery and engagement, but it’s in this combination where the value comes in. Delivery + engagement should = value. I know that we all define “value” differently. For each consumer, it’s different. And for each shopping scenario, it’s different. Education, entertainment, discounts, points. All good “value propositions,” but all unique, not necessarily based on points in time in the shopping journey, but based on the individual.
The individual is the biggest variable that we have now. Their familiarity with technology, their use of it, their access to it, their view of what it enables them to do, their expectations of what it can and should do. It’s easy to automatically pin all these different technologies as the primary variable in ways to connect, but it’s not. It’s the consumer.
Each one of us, as consumers, now have the ability to reach out to someone, often times a group of distant someones, immediately and create, comment on, and/or consume content. This power has shifted what value is to each of us and, even more, elevated our expectations, in terms of what it takes and means to engage with brands.
As all this relates to the “screens” outside of our homes, be them physical screens or screens made out of the places and things around us – the game changer of the world that we live in is not the technology that enables all of these “screens” to be activated, it is in what they deliver and how people can engage with it. Messages/content just pushed is noise. It’s reason to ignore that particular “screen.” What can’t be ignored is something to actively engage in, something that delivers value to that person at that point in time. That’s the thing to figure out.
The more technology is introduced into our physical worlds, especially on account of brands, the more critical that supporting campaigns will become. It’s not enough just to introduce a new machine, system, or even engagement based on a new technology and expect that the mass will conform, use it, and god forbid, actually like it enough to use it over and over. It has a much better chance of succeeding – given the assumption that the machine, system or engagement is technologically sound – if brands use other channels, communications, and ultimately dollars to raise awareness and drive engagement.
I’ve written before about Coke’s new touchscreen soda fountains – the ones loaded with 106 flavors. They’re pretty cool machines – efficient, easy to use, and a little fun, but they sure do take up a lot of room, especially given the fact that they only service 1 person at a time. These machines are a fairly drastic departure from something (the “standard” soda fountain machine) that has been around for years and that the public is conditioned to use. These machines provide a new way to accomplish a pretty important task, one that is taken thousands of times per day.
Now, on one hand, I don’t know if the public cares enough about how they get their soda when they’re out and about, and even further, if they would ever care enough to form an opinion. If I didn’t geek out about things like this, I wouldn’t. But on the other hand, one thing that I’ve learned over the years is that, despite what I care about, there’s someone out there – and usually a group of people – who have their own likes and dislikes and care about things like soda fountains. So, there’s a faction of public opinion at play here that could ultimately surface in one way or another.
Now, the truth of this is that, unless public opinion was/will form into a complete backlash against these machines, they’re not going anywhere. They’re only going to be distributed to more movie theatres or restaurants as time goes by. So on some level, the public is going to have to deal with this new way of getting soda from a fountain, regardless of what they actually think of them.
Here’s where Coke is really good. They recognize the need to gain support of this new way of doing things. So, the first step is to raise awareness, but their approach is to not raise awareness of the machine itself; it is to raise awareness of the benefit that the machine provides. This one machine can give you any flavor out of the 106 in its system and/or any combination thereof. No more being limited to the top 6 in its lineup because that’s all the “standard” fountains had room for. Yes, you could make a cool suicide (mixing all the flavors into 1 cup) then, but now, you can make an AWESOME suicide. Seriously.
Enter the creative campaign that they’ve launched – in the social channels and on mobile – to support (and gain support for) these new machines. Their Coca-Cola Freestyle application on Facebook gives users the ability to (virtually) mix any drink they want from the myriad of flavors, give it a special name, and share it with the world.
Trivial? Perhaps. But it’s fun. And it doesn’t take a lot of time, and it’s super simple to use, and it’s catchy enough to get other people interested. After I made my own drink, I posted it on my Facebook wall and a couple of my other friends got involved and made their own drink, too. Right now, the page/application is at 41,000 strong. Modest numbers, but I think this campaign is centered around deeper engagement, given that someone has to download an app and make a drink to really get involved. There is a barrier of entry, so to speak, that takes more active participation than say, a standard tabbed page in a brand’s Facebook presence. So, while raising awareness to as many people as possible (quantity) is key, creating a relatively deeper level of engagement (quality) could be more important to Coke. The campaign shouldn’t be judged by number of fans/likes alone.
In addition to their Facebook application, they’ve also created a mobile application – a game called PUSH! + Play. This game’s engagement is different than the Facebook application. This is a memory game where you’re introduced to the heap of flavors (still driving the benefit) and you have to “playback” the sequence that the computer gives you, in as fast of a time that you can.
The game is fun, too. I actually think it’s perfect for a train ride or a waiting room or even on your way up/down the elevator (because everyone has to be doing something at every waking moment, even when riding the elevator!) It’s casual enough to get started immediately and engaging enough to keep you playing over and over, to best your time and move up the leader board. (Leader boards are an effective “sticky” tactic. I think it’s one of the better improvements that Foursquare has introduced, but that’s for another post.)
It’s not all fun and (casual) games with the two of these applications. Yes, they do a good job of engaging you, but they also do a good job of informing you, too. They allow you to see where these machines are located near you.
For me, personally, these wouldn’t drive me into a new place, but they would drive me back into a place that I have frequented before, perhaps sooner than I had planned to. It elicits the response, “oh yeah, that will be cool for the next time I’m there.”
All of this to say that Coke is being purposeful about how they’re introducing this new way of doing things. I think this is what we can all learn from, especially in the “new” Out-of-Home space where technology is transforming our physical worlds into new things everyday – it’s important to compliment new machines, systems, and/or engagements (and content) with some sort of supporting campaign. Generally, the public will adapt to whatever is introduced, but the adaptation can be helped along through other efforts, like social and mobile engagements. Or print pieces. Or TV spots.
Too often, brands, marketers, and communicators of all sizes, struggle with cross-department and channel coordination. An easy way to bridge the gap is to ask, “What else are we going to be doing that helps this succeed? Is it a campaign? Is it a supplemental piece of content that someone might see outside of this particular activation? How is this going to be experienced elsewhere?”
More and more, the public consumes and shares media across various channels. This presents great opportunities to introduce and immerse them into the new “thing” that we want them to be aware of and participate in/with. And if we do it right, gain support, enough to accelerate change.
So, what do you think? Does Coke’s cross-channel support work in this case?
Isn’t it something when a CEO of a company resigns and the entire world takes notice? When Steve Jobs unexpectedly resigned this week, it pretty much rocked a large sub-culture of our population. My first reaction when someone read the headline to me was, “wow,” with the disbelief and wonder that I reserve for pretty major news. This wasn’t just any CEO stepping down, this was an icon of the past decade, at least. One who has completely changed the game in design, technology, and entertainment – pretty much pop culture as a whole. Jobs and Apple have also made an indelible impact on the digital signage industry – and, in turn, an impact on me – with their products and thinking. So, for today’s Friday 4-1-1, it’s only right to give it up to the man who is responsible for some of my children’s favorite vocabulary words (iPod, iPad, mac – seriously.)
The mac mini – when I was creating the Intellibooth software, one of our challenges was also finding the most appropriate hardware. We ended up using mac minis to house and run the software, primarily due to its small footprint. We could work it into any fabricated structure pretty easily and beyond that, could ship many of them in an efficient manner. In addition, we could load our Windows-based application onto it, plug all of our peripheries into it, and in a pinch, switch them in and out if anything went wrong. In short, this one little box enabled us to focus on what we really wanted to focus on – creating the front-end experience – so we could make a business of that instead of messing with the hardware game.
The iPhone – in early iterations, the phone was more of a novelty than anything else. Yes, it was powerful, but no one really knew how to unlock the potential, both from a developer’s standpoint and a user’s standpoint. The possibility of integrating digital signage communications with mobile phone communications would probably not be at the stage its at right now without the introduction of the iPhone. It did change the landscape of phones, but it also changed the landscape of “out-of-home” in a literal sense. Now, it’s possible to interact with the places and things around us – not to mention, physical screens outside of our homes – in (very) large part thanks to the iPhone.
The iPad – did you hear about the restaurant that is now using iPads for their entire customer experience? Menus, out. Credit card machines, out. It’s all iPads. Here are the two major impacts that this device has on the digital signage industry, in my opinion – 1) the more people get used to using a “high technology” (and touchscreen) device like this, the more they’ll feel comfortable using other unique touchscreen devices and 2) the more people get comfortable operating on a non-tethered device, the more they’ll feel comfortable using a “foreign” device outside of their homes.
iOS – perhaps the largest contributor to interactive Out-of-Home signage is Apple’s operating system that is founded on gestures like swipe, tap, and pinch to actually navigate through the experience. These gestures are commonplace with the “average” consumer today, thanks to iOS. This type of touch and gesture control – and the comfort level using your fingers to control something this way – is a foundational element to interactive signage. Apple has made it infinitely easier for the industry to work through any intimidation barriers that might be around.
“Uh-huh” – the brand is iconic. To build something like this is what all brands and executives hope for.
“Duh” – have you ever heard that old adage, “it’s simple to make something hard, but it’s hard to make something simple”? Well, that’s what Apple has done throughout the years. Part of their beauty is in their simplicity. The digital signage industry, particularly as it relates to interfaces and experiences, can take many things from Apple. When it’s simple to use, it’s enjoyable. And joy has to be present for any positive experience. Thank you, Steve.
What Domino’s is currently doing – by broadcasting (virtually) unfiltered comments on one of the biggest stages in the world (Times Square) – is something I applaud and would actually recommend to any client more times than not. Here’s why:
#1, it’s simple. There is absolutely no time/effort spent on content creation. Yes, they have to filter comments, but if there is human involvement, it’s not much.
#2, it’s coming from the right place. Simply, if a brand is coming at the experience and/or engagement – regardless of channel – from the right place, they’ll get credit. Regardless of any specific negative comments that might come their way. Domino’s has made a pledge – as a brand – to listen to their customers to get better. What can be a better place to come at it from? The community recognizes this and Domino’s will get credit, sales, and ultimately loyalty by being open. Remember, people want a say. Domino’s is going full tilt and giving it to them. Then, using it to make their product better.
#3, it’s big and out in the open. There’s no hiding from anything on any of those screens in Times Square. Not only is Domino’s being transparent by broadcasting these comments, they are putting those comments front and center for everyone to see. This is just another example of them showing how committed they are, as a brand, to improving. And in the process, kind of innovating.
In the digital signage industry, the concept of utilizing social media as content has seemed either a) intimidating and/or b) incompatible, to the point of not using it altogether. For whatever reason. LocaModa seems to be one of the only companies who has whole-heartedly embraced it, enough to build a thriving business around it.
I wrote a post the other day about fundamental human behaviors that are critical inputs to us as we create engagements using social media channels. I believe those behaviors apply to any marketing or communications across any channel. Including Out-of-Home (OOH) and digital signage.
Often times, I feel like the industry doesn’t know what to do and/or how to sell these screens that broadcast in public places. In the end, it probably always comes down to a question of content. While we see (and will continue to see) many examples of creative content being produced by brands and broadcast across various channels, it’s important to recognize that consumers, themselves, are creating buckets of content about the brands they love everyday.
So, from a strategic POV, why not tap into this? Brands will always open themselves up for negative comments on any social channel – be it online or off. More channels and more screens don’t alleviate that possibility. Those channels only give those voices more of a chance to be amplified. But this is not something to shy away from. Unless the brand is completely averse to change.
Almost always, the community wins. And not a single individual within the community, but the community as a whole. The brand is an enabler and a participant. That’s pretty much it.
Next time you’re sitting around trying to think of the golden piece of content, it might be right under your nose. In the social channels. Don’t be afraid.
I think we all know the importance of content in the marketing and communications mix. At the core of any experience, I believe, is the brand’s story. And the way that story is told, via the content, is arguably what we all get paid for.
In today’s always-on, hyper-connected world, it’s easy – as marketers and communicators – to focus too much on specific channels than the story and what form it should take on those channels. This is a hard challenge to overcome because new channels and new technologies within those channels surface and evolve on a daily basis. “New” media makes it easy to distract us from what will really make those channels/technology effective – the story.
I think all of this new, shiny stuff also clouds basic human behavior, which has been around and has evolved way before any of this. Those core behaviors often guide me as I’m thinking about how to bring to life and tell a brand’s story across any channel that we might have the opportunity to use. So, while this might not be a complete list – I’m no sociologist – it’s been a helpful guide to me.
People want to have a say – with anything, people feel more comfortable and trusting of a decision that they’ve had some impact on. We don’t like being told things and “this is the way it is.” The open web and new technology has actually exacerbated this behavior to the point to where people are enabled to give their opinions, weigh in and help shape more decisions, more quickly. It’s taken empowerment to a new level. A brand’s story belongs to the brand, but the shape it takes along the way, and the experiences (offline and online) it creates/enables, is constantly changing. A brand simply asking their customers what they think about something goes a long way.
People expect personal – I don’t know about you, but I ignore anything – be it an email, direct mail, or anything else – that doesn’t have my first name on it. If it’s not addressed to ME, I don’t want to spend the time with it. Social channels – Facebook, Twitter, even email – are personal, by nature. When brands/companies don’t leverage this personalization, they miss opportunities.
People want to be in the know – I think we are driven by knowledge of any kind, whether it’s about a place to eat, a new product or service, or the best babysitter in the neighborhood (personally, this is GOLD to me!). We want to have this knowledge, and often times, we want this knowledge before anyone else has it. All of these new technologies, especially those enabled through personal screens like mobile, provide an opportunity to deliver exclusive content over and over.
People like sharing – just as we like to know, and before anyone else does, we also like to share with others. Forget about any specific channel – just plain old word-of-mouth – we like to tell others about that new place to eat, that new pair of shoes, or that babysitter in the neighborhood. Sharing is core to any effective story(telling).
People support what they love – everyone has their passions. People are driven by them. And my passions are not the same as yours. Anyone seen haul videos? Why anyone would want to watch someone’s clothing haul, I don’t know. That’s just not my thing. Obviously, it’s many others. People love what they love and they get behind what they love. This is a powerful opportunity.
The great opportunity that we have with all of these channels and new technology is more appropriate and targeted platforms to tell that story. This, to me, is the beauty and the (still) unrealized potential of Out-of-Home and digital signage. More and more, we’re starting to see mobile as an extremely effective channel – through all of the different technologies – to communicate to consumers on their terms, when they’re out and about, on-the-go.
Whether your main focus is creating content/telling a brand’s story via digital signage, social media, advertising or anything else, don’t forget about fundamental human behavior. It’s what drives action and interaction, not the technology.
I read a great article the other day about a regular creative practice that is incredibly selfish, but incredibly brilliant, especially for those of us who just want to create. It boils down to a simple practice where you just get thoughts out of your body and down on paper. So, there might be some times here – like today – that I just write down some thoughts, more stream of consciousness than anything else. They’re not refined and they’re not packaged. Some of them might not even make sense. But they’ll be out. And hopefully, you might be able to take some nuggets away, and even more than that, hopefully they’ll serve as an inspiration for me to create something better to share with you guys. Here goes…
Next time you’re outside of your home, stop and look around. How many screens do you see? How many places/things turned “on” do you see? Screens are all around. In fact, what does the term “screen” mean anymore? What about the mobile screen in your hand?
Once upon a time, engagement was confined to a TV set or billboard. For the longest time, it was a passive experience. Then, along came computers, which enabled an instant connection to the information customers were searching for. This created an active experience. But time soon showed that the instant connection was no longer fulfilling people’s needs. So, enter the open web and social media, where the connection actually became a two-way interactive experience. But still, people were confined to their homes or offices with their tethered devices. At the same time, they were spending more and more time on the go, outside of those homes and offices. Those tethered devices were becoming more and more limiting. So, enter the mobile phone, where quickly, it became less and less a phone and more and more a device that enabled instant connection to information, people, and brands. In the process, those connections enabled experiences – dynamic, two-way interactive experiences. And here we are today, where passive experiences are a thing of the ancient past.
We’re living in a world where engagement extends far beyond our living rooms and offices. It’s everywhere we are. Out and about. On the go. It’s the world. “Out-of-Home” has taken on a new meaning.
It’s no longer a mass-awareness blanket, it’s a mass-engagement canvas. (Now there’s a thought, an inspiration.)
In her classic book The Artist’s Way, creativity expert Julia Cameron shares a practice she stumbled upon while living in New Mexico and recovering from yet another in a series of career disasters. Every morning, she writes out three pages, longhand, of pure stream of consciousness.
What Cameron is advocating through the practice of Morning Pages is the actof “Unnecessary Creating.” That is, creating for ourselves rather than for others.
A few key qualities of Unnecessary Creation:
You set your own agenda.
You have permission to try new things and develop new skills.
You can take as much or as little time as you need to get it right.
You can stretch yourself, explore fringe ideas that intimidate you, and make things that no one but you will ever see.
If you fail, it’s no big deal.
When we spend all of our time and energy creating on-demand, it’s easy to lose touch with the passions that fuel our best work. We grow used to leveraging our abilities for the sole purpose of meeting others’ expectations rather than exploring new possibilities and taking risks.
As marketers and communicators, I think balance is key to so many things we do. I’m going to explore some of those things here, over the coming days. My first post was around the balance between sales & relationships (marketing & communication). Today’s is one of the favorite topics among my colleagues and myself – the balance between personalization and privacy.
One of the common themes here at the 11th Screen is the ability for consumers to connect with each other and the brands they love all the time, especially when they’re out and about, on-the-go. We don’t need physical screens outside of the home (“digital signs”) to deliver messages and enable engagement. The places and things around us have the ability to be turned on and it’s more of an exercise in strategy & creativity (in how to connect consumers) than it is in figuring out technology.
The notion that the real and virtual world can be more hyper-connected than it is today (which is light years more than it ever has been in the past) is something that is both exciting and scary. It’s exciting because:
We can talk to anyone, anytime, on/through multiple devices, and we like this
We aren’t confined to a computer screen or a TV screen to connect and engage, and we like this
Mobile, to me, is becoming the screen of choice. And it doesn’t have to be a mobile phone – iPad anyone? And this is what we want.
We can efficiently fulfill tasks that previously required us to go to a store, stand in lines, and deal with people (see Redbox, or better yet, see Netflix streaming service on your TV), and we like this
We can, essentially, control the terms of engagement with everything and everyone in our lives. While we might have a different level of control placed on friends/family than we do services/brands, the major benefit for all of this is that we’re having to alter our lifestyle less and less. It’s just easy. All of these connections now fit into our crazy, busy, on-the-go lifestyle. (This actually opens up another balancing act, which is disconnecting while always being connected – we’ll get to that in another post.)
From a brand & marketer/communicator standpoint, with this hyper-connection comes the potential to hyper-target. Outside of the computer. It provides the ability to personalize experiences based on past experience, preferences, demographic, and a slew of other personal data. “Right message at the right time” is something that I hear all the time in the digital signage circles. This is not a new concept, but it gets everyone excited with the possibility of truly reaching people with the right message at the right time, regardless of where they are. This is one of the things I find most exciting about the true potential of interactive out-of-home (IOOH). Right now, I think everyone would agree that there’s a lot of noise out there. Even on the web. But certainly when you’re outside of your home. Personalization helps reduce the noise.
But herein is the balancing act – personalization requires consumers loosening their grip on (potentially many) aspects of their privacy. And this is the scary thing about an always-on, hyper-connected world. This has a tendency to freak people out. Rightfully so. There are some creepy things that happen out there on the web and it doesn’t take many stories to scare people into not exploring or completely shutting down. This behavior is counterproductive to the potential of the new out-of-home. If no one will interact with the places and things around us, those places and things will be rendered worthless.
Here’s my take on privacy – if you can experience the benefit of giving up more information about yourself, you’re more likely to, in favor of a better experience. But you’ve got to experience it. And it’s got to benefit you.
I think Facebook and LinkedIn have done a wonderful job of letting people experience the benefits of giving up more of their private information. Facebook makes connections seem seemless, particularly around interests. LinkedIn enables you to connect very specifically with the type of people you want to connect with. Both are more powerful for you with more of your information. This power is in the personalization.
So, does it just boil down to benefit and experience? I’m afraid not. I think we still have a ways to go until giving up more personal information than less is the norm. I think technology will drive a lot of this, as it has in the past few years, but people don’t want to be creeped out. It’s just that simple. They want to feel safe. At the same time, whether or not they can verbalize it, I think they want to reduce the noise.
Transparency always helps. Utilizing systems where people have given personal information (Facebook) is good, too. This enables the experience to be seemless and easy. Education will be critical, especially from all of those involved in the out-of-home channel, because those turned-on-places-and-things-around-us can positively effect our daily lives. It’s going to require personal information, though.
As much as I talk about personalization, it’s important to realize anything can only be made personal through information. And that’s letting go of pieces of privacy. And that’s the balance that we all have to find.
So, that’s my take. What about yours? I’d love to hear it!
As much as I can, I like speaking to pictures, not words, so the presentation might be a bit difficult to understand. For regular readers of this blog, my story and view of the Out-of-Home space has been chronicled here many times and the presentation is a brief consolidation of those thoughts. For those new readers, there are a few key themes in my view of Out-of-Home that are reflected in this presentation:
I am not a media person (like Jennifer). I don’t make my living working for a DOOH network (like Brian). I work for a communications company and I am an experience person. I’m very much in the connections business and one of the opportunities that I am faced with is how we can connect people with each other and the brands/organizations they support while they are physically outside of their homes. In a way, I have a grassroots approach to Out-of-Home, but that’s primarily due to the realistic application I can affect given my job. I’m fascinated by the space and the experiences brands can now create Out-of-Home so I think I have a pretty broad perspective, based on experience and study.
I’ve heard “Digital Out-of-Home” (DOOH) referred to as the 4th Screen (Nielsen dubbed it as such) and the 5th Screen and even the 6th Screen. People are coming up with “screen” names for the space that are pretty funny. So, when I started this blog, I picked a random number and ran with it. Thus, the 11th Screen. It’s actually been kind of serendipitous because in the past two years, I’ve realized more and more that we will not need physical screens to interact and engage with while outside of our homes. Technology now enables the places and things around us to be turned on and I think the future is not going to be defined by “screens” at all. So, the idea of the 11th Screen speaks to this notion of our physical world being projected on, interacted with, and made into rich experiences. At least that’s the story I’m running with. :-)
I see this “Out-of-Home” space as a blank canvas to create connections. Our society (and world) is based on human connections. Technology (especially mobile) has enabled broader and more efficient connections. It’s no longer the barrier. In fact, it’s a powerful enabler. So, the opportunity for brands to connect with people while they’re outside of their homes, on the go, is greater today than it ever has been. At the heart of connections is communication and effective communication is 2-way. This is important. Because it requires listening and engaging. Both ways.
Out-of-Home has typically been a great Awareness channel. Effective at getting as many eyeballs on an ad as possible.
The introduction of “digital” to the Out-of-Home mix, insofar as making the display digital, does nothing to channel other than to make it more efficient. Moving images and bling make it into “Digital Out-of-Home,” but it does not fundamentally change the channel.
What does fundamentally change the channel is a different kind of technology – “enabling” technology. Technology that enables connection with the brand or with other people. Technology like touch or gesture or Bluetooth or geo-location or image recognition. There are a fair amount of technologies that enable something digital or non-digital (bling or not) to drive connections. This kind of technology changes the channel from an effective Awareness channel to an Engagement channel, and this is the true potential, and the future, of Out-of-Home. In my opinion.
Then, some examples – the first Walgreens example represents the difference between non-digital Out-of-Home and Digital Out-of-Home. Adding a display technology onto the sign does nothing other than provide more space to advertise.
But, as soon as you introduce a short-code to drive connections on that digital sign, it instantly becomes another way into the brand, a way to connect with them.
Then, you can see other examples of the “Awareness” execution of the space compared to the “Engagement” execution of the space. And the space, again in my opinion, is no longer just billboards, posters, or kiosks. It’s the places and things around us in the real world – like products and packages – that are becoming channels into the brand experience themselves. This is the future. And to me, I’m afraid it can’t be defined as “Digital Out-of-Home.” That is much, much too limiting.
If you have any questions on the presentation, feel free to drop me a line. I’m more than happy to discuss in more detail. As always, thanks for reading!
1. The technology in the wand is NOT RFID. It behaves a lot like RFID, but it’s a proprietary technology that includes infrared and a chip. The chip is programmed to the user and keeps an ongoing history of the user, not the wand. This is important because if someone loses their wand, they can easily get a replacement and have it re-programmed to their user history. According to my discussion this morning, the primary reason that RFID was not used in the wand was proximity. The game-makers wanted the wand to work within proximity, not through touch. Infrared has a wider range than RFID.
The technology here isn’t important. What is important is what the technology enables – a personalized experience that continually drives you deeper into the brand (in this case, the game). This particular technology is smart enough to keep a running history of personal achievement. That’s cool. And that’s the power of what any sort of interactivity provides in this blank canvas called Out-of-Home.
2. Active RFID is a whole different ballgame than passive RFID. All of the RFID that I experienced at Great Wolf Lodge is passive RFID. In yesterday’s post, you can see how powerful it is. Active RFID enables some cool things in this environment, particularly around tracking and safety. If those wristbands were active RFID, they would essentially become tracking beacons that could show where anyone was on the property at any given time. At a resort like this, can you imagine how easy it would be to find a lost child or a lost parent? It has a lot of advantages and it’s something that GWL continues to explore. Thing is, active RFID requires large antennas to pick up the signals. So, you can imagine what kind of operational challenges this presents.Being a theme-park, they have options. Turn them into large trees? It could happen.
3. They are always looking to innovate. But they don’t want to add something on that doesn’t utilize the existing technology. They want to make sure it works with what’s already going on. I was glad to hear that they are constantly looking for ways to innovate, but this whole thing didn’t surprise me. A large business like this would be foolish to not filter additional technology through what they’ve already got. And for GWL, who purposefully wants to provide an unparalleled level of convenience to their guests, they don’t want to risk complicating the experience by latching on to the latest, greatest.
4. Digital signage is not important to them. There are posters everywhere. They line the hallways. They’re in the usual places like elevators, the lobby, and the waterpark. I think digital signage could help in some places – menu boards or waiting in lines (for rides) – but other than that, I don’t think it makes sense. GWL is obviously a closed-in space, so they don’t advertise anything other than what’s going on in their own house. What they have now – lots of static posters – is just fine for them. I think if they felt confident in a way they could use digital signs with their existing technology, and it added a tremendous difference in value to what they already have – they’d explore it even more.
All of this technology and the entire experience it enabled just inspires me even more about the potential of creating solutions outside of the home. There are many ways to achieve different levels of interactivity, but the interactivity is the thing. It can make experiences easier, or better, or more convenient, or more fun. Thing is – it’s an experience.
And if you’re into this sort of thing, you can find one at Great Wolf Lodge.