Get Inspired by Modern Marketing Trends

EPISODE 18 | Guest: Debbie DeWitt, marketing communications manager for Visix

The times have changed, especially the way we all respond to marketing. How can you enhance the customer experience rather than intrude upon it? Don’t just advertise to your audience – engage with them. Take a page from modern marketing trends to make your screens more attractive and interesting to your audience.

Share content they care about. Turn everyone into an influencer. Craft your call to action so you have a way to measure interest. Respond to how people are interacting with your communications and constantly adjust. By taking a cue from super-brands, content marketing and online trends, you can build a content strategy that continuously feeds your screens, your audience’s interests and your goals.

  • Learn why and how to create a more consumer-like experience
  • Explore the differences in advertising, branding and influencer marketing
  • Understand the three pillars of content marketing: valuable, relevant, consistent
  • Gather data on your audience to better understand their interests
  • Take advantage of reviews, testimonials and other crowdsourced content

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Learn more about this topic in our Masterclass Guide 3: Digital Signage Content


Derek DeWitt: You know, we’ve been doing these podcasts for a while, and I’ve been really struck by sort of how integrated communications technology has become with our daily lives. And I have especially become interested in how, because of these new techniques and these new technologies, marketing techniques have really changed in the last 20 years. So we’re going to explore some of those ideas on how that might apply to digital signage. To that end, I’m here with marketing communications manager for Visix, Debbie DeWitt. Hello Debbie.

Debbie DeWitt: Hello Derek.

Derek DeWitt: I’d like to thank you for coming and talking to me today and I’d like to thank all of you for listening.

Derek DeWitt: So, you know people today, I mean we’re constantly on the go, we’re getting information from multiple channels, we’re walking around with these touchscreen computers in our pockets that they say are more powerful than the computers that sent the Apollo landings to the moon. How do you compete with that — all that noise? How do you grab attention? I mean, digital signage is another way. It’s sort of an externalized version of this. And one of the things you hear a lot being talked about is creating this more consumer-like experience.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about how we consume information as people and digital citizens today. This idea that the way that we engage with a company or brand or a product or services or whatever, nowadays, at first it was websites and now it’s your Facebook feeds and all of these sorts of things. So people have all of these, so many different ways to interact with corporations and each other.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. And I mean, consumer experience (sometimes it’s called customer experience), it’s really, you’re just talking about what kind of feeling or perception does a person have after they’ve interacted with you, your company. So in the retail world it means how do they feel after they’ve made a purchase or had a tech support call with you?

But when it comes to digital signs, you’re really talking about what does that audience feel after they’ve interacted or engaged with your signage, with your messaging, with your touchscreen. It’s really about trying to create almost that same type of feeling as they have [when they’ve] engaged with a brand or a store, but doing it through internal communications.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. I think a lot of it’s about sort of managing expectations. The way that we use our phones for example, even though you wouldn’t think it, it seems pretty…the apps, you tap an app, it opens, you scroll like this, you move through this. But in fact, everybody does have tiny, tiny little individual ways that they interact with even the apps on their own phone or tablet. Even if you’re not in retail. I think what we’re trying to do is create a similar experience somehow with a very different medium.

Debbie DeWitt:  Yeah, absolutely. I mean, as far as how we access information, how we sort through it, how we search for it, what we choose from the results that we get, and then how we navigate those results are all very individual. And like you said about smartphones, same thing. We’ve had studies as far back as websites that navigation needs to be easy, but no one does it the same way. There are many people that, quite frankly, just accessing the files on your laptop, you do it a different way.

Some people will open an app because they’ve got a shortcut and other people will type it into the apps menu. Like everybody is very individual and that’s actually wonderful, and that’s what we’re trying to tap into. Make people feel like it’s an individual discovery. I always joke that like no one would organize their kitchen the way I have mine organized.

Derek DeWitt: Oh god, that’s the truth!

Debbie DeWitt: But it’s absolutely true. You go into a friend’s house or something and you’re like, why are your books there?

Derek DeWitt: Why is this your silverware drawer? Are you insane?

Debbie DeWitt: I mean actually a bookshelf is the best way to see the differences in individuals. How people categorize their library. Or if you’re on a Kindle, like how people store their things. Is it by genre? Is it by title? Is it alphabetical by author?

Derek DeWitt: I had a friend who actually organized his bookshelf by the color of the spines, so all the green ones were here, all the blue ones were here.

Debbie DeWitt: Wow. That would be beautiful, but very hard to remember how to find something. I hope he didn’t have a whole lot of books.

Derek DeWitt: I think he had to write an index for it. Yeah. Who the heck knows how people are going to organize their physical spaces, the way they interact? I mean, some people have a million icons on their desktop, and some people have a really clean desktop. One of the things that really strikes me is interactivity. I cannot help but think that digital signage is quite clearly moving towards interactive 100%. That’s going to be the future soon.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we all have touchscreens in our pockets, like you said, and even at work we’re using a lot more touchscreens. I think anybody who’s ever been to a mall and had a large screen display, they’ve seen people walking up to it and touching it. It’s just what’s done now. We test every screen to say, “Can I interact with this?” So, when you’re talking about a consumer-like experience and allowing people to explore in their own way, well, interactivity is the natural fit because obviously it’s hard to explore a screen on the wall showing a playlist in my own way.

Derek DeWitt: Especially if it’s up eight feet in the air.

Debbie DeWitt: Absolutely. Yeah, so interactivity is the key, very much for personalized experience to allow people to have this sort of sense of discovery and accomplishment by finding information they want to.

Derek DeWitt: And you can actually nest or embed really a dense amount of information just using the directory form, the basic concept of a directory. It can be anything. It’s just like on your computer, folders and then a sub folder and a sub folder inside that and dah, dah, dah…. You can just have all of this information, really an astonishing amount of information, through an interactive touchscreen.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. If you think of a website, you always have top menus and then, and then sub-pages, I mean, you certainly don’t want to overload it. You don’t want to have the entire web on there. But it does allow you to, for example, serve up a directory to someone who’s looking for an office, but [also] serve up your mission statement or current charity drive totals.

People are going to want to see different things. I mean, a lot of campuses, they do interactivity. They’ll have wayfinding, they’ll have directories, but they also talk about the history of the campus. They’ll even have, like, if they’ve got a big sports program. They’ll have alumni boards; they’ll have donor boards. And all of that is like, the person walking in the door might have different interests from the person walking in after them. So it’s a great way to go, “Hey, we’ve thought of all these different things that interest our audience and so we’re offering them all to you, and pick and choose the way you like, navigate the way you like and interact with it in a personal way.”

Derek DeWitt: You’re creating these deep wells of potential information, for people who are so inclined, to interact with. And here’s the thing, it doesn’t mean if you don’t have touchscreens that you’re just hopelessly out of date and old fashioned. You can mimic the interactive experience. QR codes are certainly coming into their own right now in the United States. I think most smartphones come pre-loaded with a reader. Smartphone snaps, coupon codes, vanity URLs; all of these with discrete landing pages or sending people to the internet, intranet if it’s internal communications. These are also all ways to create some sort of interactivity. But I can’t help but think that people today go to a screen and if the only thing I can do is just look at it, there’s a little bit of a disappointment there. There’s like a “Huhhh.”

Debbie DeWitt:  Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean you want to carry on engaging after someone has left your screen. It shouldn’t be a ten-second engagement and they’re done. That’s why you have a call to action. Like you said, you can continue that personal experience by “Now go to the website”, where you can dig deep. Taking your phone out of your pocket and taking a picture of the mascot on the screen, or a QR code, and then take that to the bookshop for a discount or something like that. I mean, that’s all consumer-like.

It’s really just about finding a way to enhance the interaction with your audience member as opposed to intruding on them. You want them to not feel like, “I just got interrupted. I was looking at my smartphone, I glanced up so I didn’t run into a wall, I glanced at a screen and you know, it wasn’t a positive experience.” You wanted to catch their attention. You wanted to offer them something that will make them engage with your brand or your communication.

Derek DeWitt: Right. And I think the days of just messaging at people, they’re done, they’re gone. We no longer just go, “Hey, here’s some information. Now go about your business.” Modern communications, modern marketing, is all about engaging, engaging, engaging. I mean retail has been doing this forever because the engagement aspect is “Buy our product or service.” And here we’re doing so much more than just that.

Debbie DeWitt: Absolutely. And I mean this is very important as we get new generations in the workplace. Or quite frankly, they’re no longer new — millennials are making up a large chunk of the workforce, and if you’re at a college, you’ve got millennials and Gen Z. You’ve got younger generations that you’re appealing to, and so you have to think differently about how you’re marketing to them. I’ll use the term “marketing” because “communications” is somewhat a form of marketing. It’s not selling you something, but you are trying to engage them, get them to pay attention and maybe get them to have a dialogue with you in some way.

Derek DeWitt: It is offering something and hoping the person takes it. That’s basically what it is. Now, you know, another thing that you read a lot about, if you’re reading about modern marketing, is this concept of influencer marketing. And it’s interesting, I think a lot of people don’t really understand. Like George Clooney, in Europe, is the Nespresso guy. He’s sort of their little brand mascot, and it certainly draws people in. But that’s not influencer marketing, right?

Debbie DeWitt: No, no, that’s branding. It’s a great campaign, but it’s branding.

Derek DeWitt: ‘Cause who doesn’t love George?

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. And those are the two things that get that get confused, I think, a lot. People think that that influencer marketing is just doing like editorial coverage and press releases and getting your name out and having social media pages. That’s branding, that’s communications. But influencer marketing is getting someone else to promote you.

Derek DeWitt: Because they dig it.

Debbie DeWitt: Quite frankly, it should be organic. It is meant to be organic. It has been co-opted a bit by marketing and people are paying influencers. But the fact is, it should be getting people in the world who have followers; this is almost always on social media. Influencer marketing as a social media creation.

Derek DeWitt: And web, yeah.

Debbie DeWitt: It is getting people who are considered authorities or just stylish or just popular to say, “I like this thing, I like this brand, I like this product”, and actually spread that word. It can be as simple as, you know, there’s a whole YouTube channel of someone unboxing things. It’s like “I like it!”

Derek DeWitt: Oh, that’s huge, you know, the unboxing videos are massive.

Debbie DeWitt: There’s one with a boy who unboxes toys. And it’s about “do I like”…and that’s a very experiential…you’re watching someone else’s experience going, “Do they like this packaging experience, the delivery, are they excited? Is it easy?”

Derek DeWitt: And, P.S., it’s also promoting that particular product.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah, exactly. And it’s basically, for whatever reason. Like I said, they could just be popular, they could be an actual industry expert or an expert on that topic, but whatever, this person is considered trustworthy or some sort of brand leader or you know, a leader, maybe someone who tries things before anybody else and the audience likes that. It’s usually a real person, but you can even do it, some marketers have tapped into it by doing it as more like a character. And it’s really about if something or someone gets a following, and they endorse you – that’s influencer marketing.

Derek DeWitt: I also think though, like reviews, online reviews, are a type of influence marketing. It’s crowdsourcing your influencer marketing. The people have spoken, and they say, “By gosh, you’re 4.8 out of 5” and that’s pretty high praise, and obviously you want to get more and more of those. It’s not a good idea to create fake accounts. People can kind of see right through it. Testimonials, getting people’s opinions out there. I mean, you’re kind of creating champions, in many ways.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah, and the way this influences digital signage is, if you get reviews (positive or negative in truth, if you want to be transparent) put them on your digital signs. If you have testimonials, absolutely put those up there. If you simply do a training survey; for example, Visix does a survey for any implementation, tech support or training. If someone gives a compliment to George in our tech support group, put that on your digital signs. It’s great because it builds brand. It’s not selling anything. You could show that to internal employees, but you can also show that the customers, because what you’re doing is, you’re saying, “Hey, we’re promoting ourselves, but we didn’t do it. An influencer did it. This isn’t us.”

Derek DeWitt: This was a pleasant surprise!

Debbie DeWitt: “We’re not saying George is the best tech support guy this month, a customer did. They said this about him.” And so, it gives that separation, and especially for like millennials and younger people, they don’t want to be marketed to. They don’t want to be sold. They don’t want to be pitched.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, they resent it.

Debbie DeWitt: So instead they want facts. They want other people to say, “You should check this out, you should go with this, you should actually consider this. I did, I liked it.” And it’s not the company who, of course, has a reason to tell you that it’s great, telling you it’s great. It’s someone else doing it.

Derek DeWitt: This idea of having social media boards on your digital signage, you’re can have contests, you can do profiles or various things. Let people submit things, videos, pictures, what have you.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah, it’s great to crowdsource content. I mean, it’s a big job to put something up all the time. And since influencer marketing is going on out there, and branding, and all these other things, basically you can pull that in onto your screens and it saves you so much more time.

Derek DeWitt: Right. And really what you’re doing is you’re, in that way, you’re creating a dialogue in many ways, or at least something that’s similar to a dialogue, as opposed to just, “Hey, we’re a brand you can trust!”

Debbie DeWitt: People want to participate. I mean, people want to share things. They want to share in that experience. We’re going back to that consumer-like experience.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. This is just the abstracted version of a touchscreen.

Debbie DeWitt: Exactly. You know that any large brand out there, like a Nike or Banana Republic, they have a whole online presence that has nothing to do with selling. They have an Instagram…

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, they’re promoting lifestyle.

Debbie DeWitt: It’s a lifestyle and what they’re saying is “If you like this, share it.” And you can do the same thing really by promoting…you can also just directly ask people to share and submit testimonials. You can put that content up and then certainly show those results. And like you said, make people feel like they’re part of the dialogue.

Derek DeWitt: Right. And the thing is, it’s not just making them feel like that; they really are part of it.

Debbie DeWitt: A lot of it is you have to know who you’re talking to.

Derek DeWitt: And the thing is, especially all of this technology, there’s a lot of public-facing, forward-facing, outward-facing tech, but there’s a lot of stuff under the hood as well. I mean, anybody out there who has tapped into Google Analytics, the depth and width of knowledge is overwhelming. It’s preposterous how much big data we can gather now on our audiences, and how they behave and what they do, and how their viewing patterns go (they go from here to here to here to here.)

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. And it’s great and it’s not scary. A lot of people get scared of this. It’s not personal. I don’t know what Derek is looking up on my website. They generate a fake IP to say, “If you want to follow this person [who] we’re going to call ‘John Smith’”, you know, but it’s not actually “John Smith.” But yeah, it gives you this huge dataset and knowing your audience….I mean if you don’t know your audience, you’re just pushing out your own messaging. You’re talking to yourself, just talking to yourself. You have to talk to them.

So I mean we’ve talked about different generations. You have to parse who you’re talking to, when, where; the differences. And granted, in a shopping mall, you’re talking to everybody all the time. But if this is organizational communications, which is really our focus, we’re talking about, forget the retail, bring this into your company or your government office or your hospital, you really need to pay attention to who’s looking at your screens when and why.

Derek DeWitt: And it’s not just demographics. That’s certainly one level, and that’s the most understandable because companies have been looking at demographics for ages. But it’s also now we can see viewing patterns. We see behavior patterns. [With] Google Analytics. I can actually see a lot of people who go to my website are also interested in traveling by train or are interested in going to the movies in the cinema and things like this. Like that’s a really interesting depth. Now the reason that I know this is because those people have voluntarily allowed Google and the web, in various profiles and so on, to access that information. So, you’re not really spying or anything like that.

Debbie DeWitt: Oh absolutely! When we say this, we’re also talking about…When we say, “Get Big Data”, I mean, Big Data is much bigger than any organization is going to collect, usually.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, we’re not talking NSA stuff.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah! Internally. Always do it safe. Always do it voluntarily. We know that. But the fact is like HR, they’ll know things. I mean certainly make clear to them, you don’t want specific individuals, but they can gather up some statistics for you. I mean, the average length of employment at our company… I mean, if you’ve got a high number, like Visix very much does (I believe the average is something close 8 or 10 years that people stay at this company).

Derek DeWitt: Per employee on average. Wow.

Debbie DeWitt: That’s something you want to advertise. I mean, so the data trend is “Get that data”. Does it inspire anything, is anything you can put on your screens? HR can help with that. You can do walkthrough audits just to find out what are people interested in and that kind of thing. But really surveys are a great way. I mean, it’s very simple. You want to know what people want to see on your screens.

Derek DeWitt: Ask ’em!

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah, ask them.

Derek DeWitt: “Hey, what would you, what would you like to see?”

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah, exactly. I mean, and it’s funny; this seems so obvious, but the fact is that [in] real life we have seen quite a few people who, they sit in an office, they come up with what they want to say and they put it out there [on the digital signs]. And as I said, you’re just communicating for yourself. You always have to think of the receiver in communications.

Derek DeWitt: And it almost creates a feedback loop. You communicate with them; they respond and communicate with you, sometimes directly or indirectly through what they do or whether they follow your call to action or what have you; and then you adjust what you offer to them; and then you present new stuff that’s been adjusted according to what you think they want; they then respond this. So, it’s just constant loop back and forth, back and forth, back and forth between communicator and communicatee (if that’s a word).

Debbie DeWitt: “Receiver,” whatever you want to call it. But yeah, I mean the fact is, times have changed. We all went through the 14 pieces of junk mail in our mailbox phase, which is “Here, here, here! Look at my product, buy my product, look at my product, buy my product or my service”, or if it’s internal communications, “Sign up for the 401(k). Do it, do it. Do it.” People, they want something useful. Don’t tell me what, tell me why.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, don’t stick a bunch of flyers under my door for lumber when I’m not interested in lumber. And I understand that in the old way it was just push communications, “We’re printing newspapers and flyers.” You have no way of knowing if I personally am interested in your lumber company, you know?

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. I mean, in marketing it’s been a long time since we switched over from talking about features to talking about benefits. It’s been years and years. So, I mean really, people are looking for communications and content that’s relevant, that’s useful to them.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. And then the last thing that’s very much in all marketing (newspapers and articles and blogs and publications and so on), much of the talk these days is about content marketing.

Debbie DeWitt: We’re doing content marketing right now.

Derek DeWitt: This is a form of content marketing, right? I have a quote here from the Content Marketing Institute: “Content marketing is a technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” That’s pretty comprehensive.

Debbie DeWitt: Boiling it down: write a blog, do a podcast, don’t do an advertisement, don’t sell something. Give people relevant information that they’re interested in with the hope that they will attach to your brand or your company, or (if it’s internal communications) they will attach more to that culture.

Derek DeWitt: Right. “They know what they’re doing!”

Debbie DeWitt: Of course, there is an end game. There is the fact that you want to drive profits, you want people to have brand loyalty, you want your internal employees to be happier, more productive. But the fact is you don’t just have to keep screaming at them, “Be more productive! Buy my product!” You can actually give them something that just makes them want to do it on their own. It’s about motivating them to motivate themselves.

Derek DeWitt: And with, say digital signage, organizational digital signage especially (but even the public-facing stuff, but especially the talking to your own employees, digital signage deployments), you’re not actually really selling anything. Yeah, you might try and get people to go buy, you know, brownies or coffee or salads or something at the on-site cafe, but you’re not really there to make money. You’re there to get them engaged because engagement, as we know, has its own series of benefits and so on and so forth.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah, there are a lot of similarities between content marketing and managing digital signage communications. They focus on, it sounds simple, but they’re focused on communicating, not selling. It’s about relationship building and using those signs to become a trusted source for your audience. I mean, that’s true of, like, our website. We have a ton of resources, blogs and all this. We want to be seen as someone you can trust to tell you, not just “Buy our product”, but how to use it, how to get the most out of it. So you really want to do that. You can use it for ads, but it’s always better to educate and inform your audience instead of sell something. So digital signs are kind of a natural fit.

Derek DeWitt: I always think of interactive wayfinding as kind of a good model for this or metaphor for this. You know, the purpose of your wayfinding offering to the public and for visitors to your facility is to assist them in getting from point A to point B.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. And relieve stress and seem helpful. If you look at that, that’s a bit of a content marketing sort of feeling. You’re being helpful to them.

Derek DeWitt: Can you imagine how irritating it would be if, you know, “Okay, how do I do this?” and then periodically along the little red line that’s drawn on the map, ads popped up, right? That would be idiotic. Nobody would do that.

Debbie DeWitt: Everyone has seen it in malls. Many times, your wayfinding, you know, they’ve sold that space of we’re going to put the McDonald’s logo and even animate it.

Derek DeWitt: Well, yeah, the logo’s fine.

Debbie DeWitt: Right, but it’s animated, but sometimes you can touch that, and an ad will pop up. And that’s fine because it’s optional. What we’re talking about is, again, we’re back to consumer experience. Let people discover what they want to and don’t put it in their face. Don’t interrupt them when they’re in their own search for information or learning something from your screens.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, that’s exactly so. Yeah, I mean really content marketing and digital signage are both really about attracting an audience and retaining an audience, creating sort of loyalty. Like there’s a new a blog website called Medium, and you’ll see trends in there and you’ll see people will follow certain people and, “Ooh, I trust this person, I five of this person’s blogs, and I think this person has something interesting to say” and they begin to follow them. It’s almost like content marketing meets social media.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. I mean that’s why Reddit and Quora and these other things exist. I mean, Reddit is fantastic because they are absolutely against any type of marketing, even content marketing. They are there as ask (crowdsource) your question and get an answer. So, that’s more like influencer marketing. Whereas like you said, something like social media, you do see a lot of content marketing there.

Derek DeWitt: Right. And you know, it’s interesting, like the Content Marketing Institute says, “valuable, relevant” (partly I think that would mean timely) and “consistent”. And I think the consistency thing is a very important thing. Don’t just throw up content marketing for content marketing sake. There’s a term now, “clickbait”. And initially when we started to see clickbait, and we see now these sort of deceptive headlines, or a headline, say if I’m on Facebook or something, that looks like it promises to be an interesting meaty article on a topic I’m interested in, and then you click it, and it’s a poorly-written thin paragraph. And the entire point of that, you feel used, the entire point of that was just simply get you to click on the link, go to their website, so they can increase their numbers. Because they’re going to sell to VC [venture capitalists] or something.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. I mean, I’ll be honest. You know, we’ve used companies to help with our web strategy, and they’ve offered…they started with content marketing for us, and they wrote these, like, “10 ways to do this” and we do a lot of that. The difference is, they wrote, you know, 250 words and we write 1200 because we’re like, if we’re going to tell you the six ways, we’re going to tell you why you should care about them and really tell you what to do with them.

So, we actually took it out of a contractor’s hands because they were a marketing company ,and it was too bad that they were doing the clickbait type things. They were just about keywords and all of that. And, again, for our content marketing, we really try to give you real information that you can use or that at least get your brain working on a certain subject to think about. And I think that’s the big thing with content marketing, just like communications on your digital signs, it needs to be something people care about.

Derek DeWitt:  If they don’t care, they’re not gonna care.

Debbie DeWitt: It shouldn’t be a headline people care about. You don’t just give them a blip. It’s like, if they care about it, feed that need. You know, you really want to basically make sure that they want to come back on a regular basis or they’re just going to tune out.

Derek DeWitt: I always like to think that you want them to bookmark you and just become, you know, a regular customer. I mean, nothing would be more irritating than “Six ways to improve communication with your employees” and the thrust of part one is “Use my company!” Item number two, “Use my company!”. Item number three, “If you use my company….” You’re just like, “Oh, so you don’t actually have any advice for me. You’re just trying to promote yourself.”

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah, exactly.

Derek DeWitt: It seems deceptive, frankly.

Debbie DeWitt: I will say I’ve done a couple of shameless plugs for Visix during this, but the fact is I make sure that it’s buried in amongst a lot of useful information. The fact is, we don’t mind if you’re using us or you’re using someone else or you’re not even using digital signage. The whole thing is, we don’t like people who just put screens on the wall and think that’s enough. Because, we’re talking about, content marketing is exactly like digital signage communications, because you’re trying to influence behavior.

Derek DeWitt: Right, change or influence it, yeah.

Debbie DeWitt: If you’re not trying to influence your culture, your behavior, your motivation of your employees, productivity, safety…whatever you’re trying to do, your goal should never be, “My goal is to tell them this.” That is not a good goal. “I just want to tell them this.” No. It can be, “I want to inform them of this because I’ve had a lot of questions about it” or “Because we do a lot of meetings, I want it to put the event schedule up.” So a lot of people are like, “Well, what’s the goal in that? I just want to show it.” It sounds simple, but think all the way through to the receiver. You always should be thinking though to the receiver.

Derek DeWitt: And the receiver is, “Oh, I didn’t know there was a thing about that,” or “I didn’t know that the new training modules were out. Ooh, I’m so excited; I love being trained” or whatever.

Debbie DeWitt: Right. It’s saying instead of going, “Well I want to tell them…uh, someone told me that we have new training modules, so I want to put that up because I just want people to know”, it’s “We want to increase participation in training. We want people to know that there’s professional development opportunities.” So that’s a little bit of the content marketing thought — don’t just push out communications. Think about what’s relevant and what’s useful. Like you said, timely, useful.

Derek DeWitt: Well, you know, and I think of attractors. Weather and date and time, or maybe some kind of news ticker, these are the big attractors. I mean, the weather? “I’m sorry, I’m at Acme Widgets. That’s our company and we don’t have anything to do with the weather.” I’m putting that up there because, yeah, everybody wants to know what’s the weather going to be like. I’m going to go out and I’m going to have lunch. Do I need to drive? Can I walk?

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah, people want to know about traffic on the way home. That’s helping people. That is content marketing on your screens.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. It’s not just a trick.

Debbie DeWitt: It’s not, “Hey, I’m trying to get more people to sign up for 401(k); it’s like, “Hey, let us help you with your commute.”

Derek DeWitt: Like content marketing. You know, people make jokes all the time about feeding the endless maw of the new Baal, which is the desperate need for content everywhere you go. Google likes it when you update sections of your website and then prioritizes you higher in your SERP rankings. Social media, you need to have something all the time. Instagram every day, every day. You know, you have to constantly do all this stuff and there’s this constant, constant, constant need for content, and digital signage really is that. You’re constantly putting in new stuff. It’s an ongoing process. You’re seeing how people react, because you have a call to action. Do they take it? How do they take it? And then you’re adjusting. It’s just a never-ending cycle. It’s like a new way of life.

Debbie DeWitt: It is. And the fact is, you know, with digital signs, think about our culture. It’s funny because the more content that’s out there, the faster people eat up the content. Like the fact is the amount of content, it’s not like it’s just all going and sitting somewhere on a Google server and no one’s looking at it. The reason you need the content is that we’re getting really good about searching for, finding, reading, digesting, and moving on with content. Social media, all of these things have taught us that. So digital signs, you need to do the same thing. You do have to feed content quite a lot. You want to do that anyways to keep it fresh, but it’s also people can take in a lot more.

We’re getting faster at digesting information. So, don’t be boring. You’ve talked about attractors, that gets their eye on the screen (“What time is it?”), but you want to have something else up there they find relevant, and you want to make sure that that happens all the time. Because if they walk by four times, see the same thing for a whole week; every single time they walk by, they just see this one video.

Derek DeWitt: “There’s the picture of that dog again.”

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. A lot of people do these, like “Here’s a video about our company” and it just loops and loops. People will not look. They’ll come back next week and not even glance at the signs.

Derek DeWitt: “That’s just garbage. I don’t care.” Yeah. I think, and you said something earlier, put yourself in the viewer’s shoes. I walk in, you know, I’m a Joe Schmoe from the city and I’ve come in to, whatever, have a meeting with somebody. So what are you thinking? “Oh, I wonder what time it is. Oh, that’s an interesting thing. I didn’t know that. Oh, that video wall is telling me that there’s a kiosk over here that has wayfinding. Well that’s perfect ’cause I don’t know where I’m going. Oh boom! Oh wow! This is great! Oh wow! This is a really…oh, and this is an interesting piece of information here in this content zone. Oh, I didn’t know that. Oh, there’s a cafe. Well, great!” And so, you just have this positive experience. Part of it is about the specifics there, part of it is attractors, and it’s all very much like how we interact with information through all the different mediums and social media feeds and websites that we use in our lives.

Debbie DeWitt: I mean, I think that honestly, content marketing’s, in terms of this subject that you brought up about how the marketing trends affect digital signage, content marketing’s probably the closest along the line. Because, like we said, it’s putting out something useful, it’s putting out something relevant. But I just want to say also, like, if you’re in communications (whether you’re in marketing or internal communications) keep abreast of marketing trends. Look at what’s happening because these are people, and usually some very, very well-backed companies who have tons of money to spend on research, are out there finding what works.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, “We’ve gone through the failures for you.”

Debbie DeWitt: Exactly! A great example is, there was a point about five years ago where I would hear people say, “We want to create a viral video.”

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, you can’t create a viral video.

Debbie DeWitt: And it was misunderstanding the fact that viral is organic, but then advertisers actually did get in on it, and you had agencies who specialized in making what they said were videos that they would help to go viral. Now, some of that was because they got the web reactions and shares up.

Derek DeWitt: Right, hashtags and so on.

Debbie DeWitt: But that’s one of those things that they went through the failure for you, because the fact is, they went “Nope.” Viral videos, the most popular videos, are never going to be from, you know, you’ll have popular commercials, but the most watched video is almost always going to be homegrown. So yeah, that was a great thing because there was a time when companies did jump on that. They saw marketing agencies, big agencies, are doing these viral videos, let’s try one at our level or whatever. And very quickly everybody figured out that that’s, that’s just not going to work.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, I mean when thinking about viral videos, two always come to mind, and I know they’re from some time ago…

Debbie DeWitt: Double Rainbow.

Derek DeWitt: One of them was Double Rainbow, exactly. Which was just a guy, very probably tripping his mind out, just so in love with the rainbows and having just a great time.

Debbie DeWitt: It was beautiful.

Derek DeWitt: And it really, that was organic. And then you have one that isn’t organic, but there’s this new element in our sort of digitalized age, which is the concept of remixing, and that’s Gangnam Style, where it was so watched…. It wasn’t watched that often necessarily because people were like, “I just have to watch this over and over and over again. I am hypnotized” (I mean if that’s what you wanted to do, you could just figure out a way to download it on your computer and watch it forever.) People watched it over and over again because they were doing their own weird versions. There was a Klingon Style, there was a this, there were thousands of copies and not mocking, not satires, but sort of homage.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s, I guess that’s a little bit of what I’m saying is go out there, see what marketers are doing, and remix it for internal communications.

Derek DeWitt: Don’t break copyright!

Debbie DeWitt: Don’t break copyright, never do that. But what I’m saying is like you can absolutely go, “Wow, this ad campaign for the electronic store has this little mascot that is hugely popular”…

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, “I love him.”

Debbie DeWitt: “Or they’re using, I don’t know, a baby deer or whatever, and you can go, you know what? Let’s do that on ours. Let’s come up with something similar and try it out.” So that’s why I’m kind of saying is, like, just like people go out and remix videos, you can go out and see what people are doing. See what’s catching on, whether it be marketing or social media or influencer marketing, content marketing, whatever’s popular. You’re a consumer, the person running the digital signs.

I mean certainly you need to appeal to different audience members in different ways, but you’re not living in a bubble. I’ve seen probably a bunch of billboards for Game of Thrones because everybody knows it’s a very popular show. So, people are riffing on that. So, I’m just saying, you can go out there and use pop culture, marketing, content marketing, influencers, social media, all of it. It’s all inspiration. ‘Cause that’s the big thing; the whole point of this podcast is to help people who are going, “What else can I put on my screens?” and “How can I make it more creative and appealing?” This helps.

Derek DeWitt: We talked about it here, but if there’s really one major takeaway, it’s stop advertising to people. They don’t like it anymore. People have become very, very savvy about being directly marketed to.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. And especially for internal communications. I mean, in retail, retail marketing is vastly changing, but we’re really focused on organizational communications. And so, the translation of “Stop selling them” is “Stop talking at them.”

Derek DeWitt: Don’t tell them, “Oh, we’re a great company because we do this and this and this.” They know, they work for you. Stop trying to sell them on the company that they already work for. If they didn’t like you, they would quit.

Debbie DeWitt: They should let you say that. You know, “I want to put my own words on that screen, don’t you tell me you’re a great company.”

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, Margie in development says, “I’ve worked for many companies, and I have never felt as satisfied as I have here at Acme Widgets.” That’s great stuff.

Debbie DeWitt: It’s powerful for anybody who just needs a little boost that day. And it’s very powerful for new employees or visitors to the building.

Derek DeWitt: That’s exactly so. So, yeah, don’t advertise. Offer people good information. Take a cue out of the concepts of content marketing. Make everybody an influencer in some way, shape, or form. Make sure there’s a call to action in there so that you have some way to measure how effective it is. Respond to the way that people are interacting with your communications, adjust, and this is this kind of virtuous feedback loop that just continues to make everything better for the organization, makes things certainly better for the people who are being communicated, not to but with.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah, nice point.

Derek DeWitt: Well, thank you very much for talking to me today, Debbie.

Debbie DeWitt: You’re welcome.

Derek DeWitt: And thank you everybody for listening.