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Digital Signage Best Practices

April 10, 2017
Debbie Schwake, VP Marketing

I have lost count of how many industry conferences I have attended throughout my long career. Some were painful and many forgettable. But not this one!

The ISA International Sign Expo 2017, held late April in Las Vegas, was one of those conferences where I enjoyed and profited from every minute. Many other people in the sign, graphics, and visual communications industries agreed with me because the show broke records with more than 20,500 attendees.

As the head of marketing for BLM Technologies, my job is to stay on top of the industry and make sure our company knows about, and acts on, the newest trends and best practices. So what was so great about ISA and why should you care? First of all, the conference was a good place to network with the sharpest minds in the industry. My (cyber) Rolodex got a large boost from the event and I look forward to partnering with many of these individuals.

But perhaps the greatest benefit was the many excellent educational sessions. Here are a few highlights of three of the more interesting speakers. ISA International Sign Expo 2017

Digital signage, Where is the Profit by Alan and Jonathan Brawn, Brawn Consulting

Clearly in touch with the industry, Johnathan gave a very dynamic opening day talk about what the digital signage industry is up to and where the opportunities exist. Some of the highlights included:

  • Digital signage will not take the place of traditional signage. They will work together.
    I have to say I completely agree with this statement. While we will move some traditional print signs to digital, not all applications make sense.
  • Employee-facing networks are the fastest growing sector of digital signage.
    This is right in line with what I’ve heard in other places. In fact, the use of digital signage to fulfill internal corporate communications needs is on the rise. Why? Well, it’s really easy to deploy, for one thing.
  • There are 5,080 AV providers in the US; 35,000 traditional sign shops (not digital)
  • The seven key elements of digital signage:
    1. Objectives. What do you want the solution to accomplish?
    2. Content. What tools do you need: graphics, video, others?
    3. Design. How big is the display, what is its location and orientation?
    4. Software. What will you use as a Content Management System (CMS)?
    5. Hardware. This is the easiest part. But don’t be fooled that you can buy a TV off-the-shelf. Commercial grade hardware is always recommended.
    6. Connectivity. Will your media player require internet? How will the displays talk to the player and each other?
    7. Optimization. How will you measure if you’re meeting your objectives? More importantly, how will you optimize your content, displays, design, etc. when your objectives fall short of your goals?

Overall, many people equate digital signage to a PowerPoint presentation playing on a screen. But as Johnathan points out, there’s so much more to it.

Read more, “3 Critical Digital Signage Content Tips

The Sizzle and the Steak: Adding sizzle to your dynamic sign offering by Tom Fanger, VP Multimedia, MGM Resorts.

Oh my goodness, Tom is an interesting guy! With oversight of 50,000 digital signs (screens) at several MGM Resorts throughout Las Vegas, Tom has likely forgotten more about content than most of us will ever learn! The most compelling part of his presentation was the epiphany I had. That is, each of those 50,000 screens has an objective, purpose, and goal.

  • Don’t make each screen try to do too much.
  • Content can be based on location and time of day.
  • Moving images work better.
  • Nothing stays on the screen for more than 8 seconds (correlating with attention span research!).

This last point correlates with research from Marketing Profs, who found that the average person’s attention span is just 8.25 seconds.

Consider average attention span when creating digital signage content.

I’m not doing Tom justice here, to be sure. But I will challenge you to take a look around while you’re in Las Vegas, unquestionably the digital signage capital of the world, and take note of all the different uses of digital signage. Not only will your mind be blown by the ingenuity, but you’ll, like me, gain a new respect for someone like Tom, whose job is no small undertaking!

Blending Static and Dynamic Signs in Higher Education by Spencer Graham, West Virginia University

Spencer is one of those speakers who engages you from his opening statements. And he’s a great story-teller. By that I mean he taught us the importance of digital signage in a university environment by telling the story of what he has done and learned while deploying his university’s solutions.

  • Digital signage is not television. People will not watch for long periods of time.
  • You are intercepting traffic patterns. You have only 10-30 seconds to make your point.
  • University campuses are small cities, encompassing all the products and services you will see in a city.
  • Digital signage is a form of creating a relationship with college students.
  • Digital signage can be used to honor donors with interesting, dynamic displays. Recall that in the past these have been plaques on a wall.
  • Digital signage is a great application for emergency messaging, school shootings and weather.A text message takes 55 minutes to reach its intended recipient, an email 45 minutes, but a digital sign can be deployed in only 9 seconds.

There were so many little tidbits along the journey we followed through Spencer’s presentation. For example, many university campuses have very old buildings and architecture. And that architecture pre-dates network cabling and convenient or ample power supplies. Imagine the challenges he faced working with older architecture as a factor to consider?

“You can display an emergency message on a digital sign in just seconds.”

Along with all the other fantastic presenters, I was also honored to be a speaker at ISA Expo 2017. I talked about marketing and here are a few of my key takeaways:

  • Information overload and short attention spans make the job of marketing harder
  • Consumers are in control. 94% conduct online research and 57% research before engaging with a supplier.
  • Should you blog? Yes, if you want more visitors, engagement, and links.
  • You must align your marketing with the appropriate stage of the buyer’s journey.
  • Create, participate, and curate are three key aspects of social media success.
  • Your website is a critical marketing component and fulfills six important functions.
  • LinkedIn is today’s yellow pages – make sure your profile is effective.

However, most importantly your marketing should always be:

Digital signage should be relevant, helpful, timely and consistent.

There’s a lot more I covered and I’m happy to send you a copy of my presentation if you email me at debbie.schwake@blmtechnology.com. My apologies to the many great speakers I did not mention. For those who attended ISA, feel free to share your thoughts about your personal highlights.

And finally, thank you ISA! Not only is the ISA a great organization supporting the signage industry and businesses that comprise the industry, but also the ISA is an innovator and forward-thinking enterprise with a keen eye on the future success of the industry.