By Alex Romanov
President and CEO, iSIGN Media
You know the saying "the more things change, the more they remain the same"? Think about how true that is for marketers today.
Despite so many advertising technology advances and new media breakthroughs, marketers still face the age-old challenge of reaching new customers and placing the most appropriate offers in front of them at the most advantageous times.
Traditional broadcast and print media have become increasingly unresponsive and impotent, as the once-powerful "mass media" is nearly a thing of the past. Newspapers are dying (still), broadcast radio is a shadow of its former self and the previously monolithic television audience is now so scattered and fragmented, it's far less effective and more expensive than ever to make an impression — or drive sales. Writer and marketing guru Seth Godin refers to this phenomenon as "the end of the TV-industrial complex."
Catering to the constantly connected consumer
Paradoxically, at the same time mass media and marketing are producing diminished returns and facing impending extinction, consumers are more empowered than ever and have shown, in increasing numbers, a willingness to be constantly connected. The cascading expansion of mobile communications has created an unprecedented opportunity for marketers to reach out and touch their customers in a very specific and personal way, with products and offers tailored to their needs, wants — and demographics.
Digital signage is one very smart way to address this erosion. It provides advertisers with the means to convey messaging in an exciting and innovative manner. It's an effective, attention-getting medium for marketing. HP, for example, says that digital signage "provides information in an attractive format that entertains, informs and engages for a unique experience that gets results. Reach your key audiences and grow revenue by making your communications more relevant and memorable."
But is innovative and exciting digital signage enough? Are there complementary ways to get the word out and make the sale?
Yes! But first a little background: As the growth of mobile phones over the last 25-plus years paralleled the explosion of the Internet for personal and business use, these twin phenomena have converged. The ubiquity of smartphones that combine cellular communications (voice and text) with always-online Internet accessibility to data, Internet and online media (sound and images) is now a fait accompli.
Mobile and digital signage come together
This convergence continues. Along with the growing popularity of digital signage, a new and very exciting advertising medium has been added to the mix. Now, smartphone and other mobile cellular users can get in on the action, as their providers partner with digital signage companies.
For DOOH, or digital out-of-home, advertisers, this convergence of mobile communications creates enormous advantages and opportunities for interaction and commerce. But there are also some challenges. Spamming, for example, remains strictly verboten, whether it's in the form of email or SMS. Opt-in "permission-based marketing" is still the way to go. But opt-in "permission marketing" is far more effective than intrusive, untargeted and unwanted advertising.
There are also great benefits. The ability to measure may turn out to be the pearl in this oyster. In fact, it could prove to be the most valuable part of the equation. Data is collected, including likes and dislikes, and buying habits can be aggregated, then sliced and diced to create a customer profile. Age, gender and the number of customers viewing a specific message can also be collected and measured. This data can be analyzed to increase advertising effectiveness. Measuring the ROI of a given campaign is another benefit.
Respect thy data
Privacy is always a concern in targeted marketing and has to be extensively addressed in developing advertising solutions. Metrics must be kept private and not used for any purpose outside of the transaction.
Using these innovative applications for marketing is, by itself, a quantum leap, but combined with shopping and transaction tools, they become a superior means of interacting with customers and selling your product or service. The shopping experience also becomes far more personal. For customers, the positive feeling engendered by dealing with an organization that knows their needs and preferences is quite powerful. And it opens up a world of creativity and innovation for advertisers and marketers.
What's next then? As technology advances and the only constant is change, it's difficult to predict the future.
However, if the past is any indication, ongoing convergence can be counted upon. Consumers will continue to embrace new platforms and incorporate social media, but it's not clear if they will emerge as effective marketing tools. Will digital signage and mobile communication effectively leverage social marketing? The ultimate success of Facebook's recent IPO may depend on its ability to project revenues based on monetizing social activity but thus far the results have been far from convincing. "The Wall Street Journal," "BusinessWeek," "Fast Company" and "The Atlantic" prophetically thought so too.
Regardless, it's clear that as media consumption, mobile usage and the advertising landscape changes, marketers must continue to find ways to utilize technology to deliver their message using new platforms in the most cost effective and efficient ways. My money is on the convergence of mobile and digital signage to lead the way.
Ontario, Canada-based iSIGN Media is a provider of multiplatform advertising solutions that utilize Bluetooth, mobile, Wi-Fi and location-aware technologies to deliver rich media, permission-based messages to deeply engage consumers.
Read more about digital signage and mobile interactivity.