Guest Post: Innovating in the Age of Minimal Signage
It’s kind of amazing that the digital signage industry is growing at such an astounding rate when nearly every company is making the same few products. Hotel kiosks, digital menu boards, retail displays – we’ve grown far too familiar with the same line of products stamped with a different logo. Certainly, these traditional signage solutions are the heart of the industry, but after a while you have to ask yourself, “what’s next?”
The general public views digital signage in a simple way: placing TV’s in unordinary locations. While we (educated readers) know that these are in fact digital signage networks and not television monitors, the public tends to assume they are nothing more than fancy TV’s. And, the public has seen these “fancy TV’s” at the movie theater and at their favorite fast food restaurant. Those locales – the battlegrounds for digital signage – are no longer innovative. People now expect to see digital displays here. If a company wants to innovate, it must then ask, “what is a truly unordinary place for digital signage technology?”
This is where some companies are beginning to make progress and separate themselves from the unoriginal products that have characterized the industry for years. For a digital signage company to be innovative, it has to create a totally new concept. If you can use the same digital display for a restaurant or an airport or a movie theater, it’s probably not a very inventive product. To really stand out, companies must satisfy the smallest niche possible.
The future of digital signage is not bigger screens or higher definition, but expanding into markets you never expected.
Only a few companies are abandoning the traditional mantra of digital signage and designing products that are very narrow in scope. Unknowingly to them, they are profoundly changing how and where we might see digital signage in the future.
Many of us who follow digital signage news heard about the high-tech display that recently opened last summer at the Cleveland Museum of Art. In a nutshell, US-based digital signage vendor, Christie, created dozens of interactive screens that allows visitors to interact with famous paintings and sculptures.
Only a few short years ago, the digital signage industry would have never expected their products could be used in an art museum, of all places. The simple fact that a company was able to blend their technology into the high-brow character of an art exhibit suggests there are near endless creative possibilities for digital signage.
At nearly every restaurant and bar in America, there is a tabletop napkin holder sitting across from you. “This would make for an interesting place for a digital display,” thought Media Caddy. And it was. Their Bar Caddy integrates a fully functional monitor into a conventional napkin and condiment holder. So every time a customer grabs a napkin, they are the focus of advertisements and entertainment channels.
This is an interesting development because it consolidates digital signage technology into actual hardware, satisfying two needs at once. Other signage companies should take note of this – assimilating digital displays into another component or device is not only practical, but cost-effective. Today’s napkin holders are complete with digital displays, but the future’s escalators or hand dryers may also integrate digital signage tech.
We’ve all heard of Gas Station TV, but this product is also very interesting because it fills a very small niche, only meeting the needs of gas stations. Unless you drive an electric car, you’re going to fill up your car with gas. And all that time you spend filling up is time that a brand could spend trying to reach out to you.
This location-specific product further illustrates the narrow nature of innovative digital signage. Because their product can only be used at one type of storefront, you’d assume there is very little demand, when in fact, Gas-Station TV is expanding tremendously. Creating a digital signage product that meets the needs of a variety of locations is a thing of the past. Industry-specificity is the key to expansion.
About the Author
A student at the University of Georgia, Michael follows business and technology news. He stays up to date on current events and market forecasts and believes digital signage is going to continue to change the way the world sees advertisements.
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