Storytelling and Text Tips for Digital Signs

EPISODE 16 | Guest: Jill Perardi, creative services manager for Visix

While a good amount of what you put on your digital signs is visual, the main component is always going to be text. But which words are most effective? Are some fonts better than others? What about tying multiple messages into longer stories?

By writing effective copy and using campaigns, you can create a narrative that’s more engaging and more memorable than one-off messages. People are more likely to engage with a story than a sentence, and they’re also more likely to tell their friends and colleagues about it.

Jill Perardi shares text tips for digital signs, as well as her experience and insight on how best to adapt your messages to this unique format.

  • Learn why campaigns can be more effective than single messages
  • Explore different storytelling formats with real-world examples
  • Get font tips on advice for writing effective copy
  • Understand keywords and language trends
  • Know which types of words are best, and which to avoid
  • Find useful links for online tools in our episode transcript

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Learn more about this topic in our Masterclass Guide 4: Digital Signage Design


Derek DeWitt: Well, a good amount of what you put on your digital signage is visual. [But] the main components are really going to be words. But which words should you use and how should you display them? Are some fonts better than others? Should you link these things together to form some sort of a campaign or a story? These are questions that we want the answers to. So, I’m here today with Jill Perardi, creative services manager for Visix. Hello, Jill.

Jill Perardi: Hi Derek.

Derek DeWitt: I’d like to thank Jill for talking to us, and thank everybody for listening.

Derek DeWitt: We’re a storytelling species. We’ve been telling stories since the first time that we formulated language. A lot of very successful TV ads, campaigns and so on tell some short of an overarching tale of some sort. Whether it’s something simple, just like, “Oh, it’s Ronald McDonald!” or one of these iconic mascots that we follow their adventures and their lives and their trials and tribulations, or an actual connected narrative that comes to sort of a conclusion. I mean your basic storytelling technique – the format is our hero is in normal life, then there’s a call to adventure and then that changes the person’s life.

Jill Perardi: So, one of my favorites, that I think about right now (not necessarily favorites, but they’ve done a great job at storytelling) is actually Progressive Insurance. Not only do they have Flo, but she has a new character now, a male character, and they have introduced him. Now they’ve built him up, or this character that was just in the background now has a model wife and a massive home and is a concert pianist or something that she never knew about. But it’s all getting to the point of, all of that can be insured. And so, they’re telling that story of insurance through fun characters, that we’re following their lives.

Derek DeWitt: I think kind of when you’re planning, if you’re going to plan a series of messages as a story…Because again, it’s obvious that TV is, these are commercials or short films. We’re not really doing this on digital signage, but we’re doing almost like snapshots. Almost like photographs telling a story.

Jill Perardi: But we totally could do that same thing on digital signage. You can tell a story through digital signage. Audiences is on the move – they may not see a single message, but they may see messaging. They may see a story come together and connect to it a little bit. They might see a piece or a part of the story. “Why is this guy sitting at a piano in this image?”, but it’s telling me to buy insurance on my digital signage display; they’re intrigued. They’re going to look again next time, try to figure that out, or they’re going to wait around for the next message to see what it’s telling them.

Derek DeWitt: Right. Because the linked series of stories is the context.

Jill Perardi: Absolutely.

Derek DeWitt: So when you see a piece out of context, you go “What’s that?”

Jill Perardi: Yeah. It intrigues you. It makes you want more. It makes you stick around to look at more or come back through and learn more.

Derek DeWitt: Do you think they’re easier to remember these sorts of things, instead of just one-off messages?

Jill Perardi: Absolutely. I think narratives are very easy to remember, and people connect with campaigns of sorts because of the way it makes them feel or because they’re intrigued. People connect to stories. Like you said, storytelling is an art as old as time.

Derek DeWitt: I mean, anybody who has kids knows the number one thing, besides kids getting sick all the time, is “Another story! Another…” “No, go to bed.” “Another story, another story!” They want those stories, right? We all want those stories.

Jill Perardi: Absolutely.

Derek DeWitt: And they’re fun! I mean, I think you can make them fun. You can create this sort of sense of, I don’t know, discovery or adventure in the environment.

Jill Perardi: Yeah. And you know, build up your images along the way. And it could be a story. It doesn’t have to be a fun Progressive Insurance-style thing; it could be a story for a call to action to encourage people to respond or do something in some way.

If you have a fundraising campaign, your first message – mention the campaign. What is it? Where do you go? Second message – maybe it’s a breast cancer campaign; you’ve got a pink ribbon. Next message – show your pink ribbon and it’s mostly white, but there’s a little bit of pink because on this date, we have raised this much money. The next message – on this date last week we raised this much, and look, now our ribbon’s filling. Don’t you want to fill the ribbon?

Derek DeWitt: “Here’s where we are today.”

Jill Perardi: “Here’s where we are today.” And then your last one is a countdown of how many days you have left to give or where you go to donate again. Or maybe that donation call to action is on all of them, but you’re seeing that ribbon fill; you’re seeing that thermometer fill; you’re seeing more cans appear and images on the screen, because you’ve given more to your canned food drive. There’s a lot of different ways that you can tell a story with your typical digital signage content. Promote an event, here’s the information on the event…

Derek DeWitt: “She’s coming!”

Jill Perardi: Yeah, absolutely. Teasers, and then get to the bulk of it, and then where this is going to happen and why you want to be there.

Derek DeWitt: A sense of anticipation and even excitement.

Jill Perardi: Yeah, without a doubt.

Derek DeWitt: I wonder, too, if organizations that do this, if it ever creates kind of buzz, and people start going “Oh, have you seen that thing? or “Oh, I haven’t seen that latest installment. What happens? Tell me!”

Jill Perardi: Yeah, absolutely it does. We have clients that story-tell in their signage all the time, and they become successful campaigns for them. Create buzz with your digital signage.

Derek DeWitt: I’m reminded of… I know we talk a lot here about, but maybe people don’t really remember these, the old Burma Shave billboards. You remember these or do you know what they are?

Jill Perardi: In my defense, no I don’t. Those are much older than me! But I know exactly what you’re talking about.

Derek DeWitt: For those who don’t know, they were designed for highways and roads, long-distance roads. It would be three or four signs in a row that connected, and it would be something like “He was feeling rough” and that’s the first sign. And then a couple of seconds later, as you’re driving at the speed limit, a new sign that says, “And she didn’t like it”, because this is back in the age of traditional male-female roles. And then the next sign says, “They found the answer.” And then the last one is “Burma Shave!” Except that they were usually rhymed, and they were much more clever than that. But that’s kind of how it works. So, over the course of, I’m guessing, I don’t even know how long, it must’ve been half a mile, these four billboards…

Jill Perardi: Evenly spaced.

Derek DeWitt: …dominated that section of road for you and took up a chunk of time. Isn’t that kind of what digital signage messengers are?

Jill Perardi: Yeah, absolutely. Particularly if you have multiple displays. In a hallway, in a building, at an elevator bank, wherever they might be located. If you have displays that are kind of timed out, like those billboards were as you were driving down the road…

Derek DeWitt: Oh, I see.

Jill Perardi: …try different messaging on them.

Derek DeWitt: I think I’ve seen something like this maybe at airports, perhaps. You know, on the people movers where they’re aware that, if you get on the people mover at this point, you’ll be at the next screen by this point. And it continues the message.

Jill Perardi: Yeah, sure. Absolutely.

Derek DeWitt: So, tell me some ways we can do that. What are some examples of campaigns that we can use?

Jill Perardi: Well, we talked about fundraising campaigns, food drive campaigns, that sort of thing telling a story. Promote that event, have a teaser, create build up, create excitement for an event, countdown to a big game, countdown to something happening. Show the countdown, show why you’re counting down, who you’re counting down for and just keep telling that story.

And also, you can do it for employee engagement. You know, if you are an organization that you want to thank your sales rep for closing this great big sale, for example, start with, you know, “It started with a lead.”

Derek DeWitt: Ah, I see!

Jill Perardi: And then the lead became this, and then they did a pilot, and then this, and then in the very end, “Congratulations Matthew” for selling whatever this is. Congratulate your employees in a story as well. Get them excited, entice them. If you’re kind of a small business and everybody feels like family, your CEO’s pregnant, do your gender reveal in a story on digital signage! Why not? Employee engagement – what digital signage is all about.

Derek DeWitt: “It started with a bottle of wine.”

Jill Perardi: Maybe not go that far back, but… So have fun with it. It doesn’t have to all be so practical.

Derek DeWitt: So, it could be anything. It could be a new training module. It could be a benefits package. It could be, heck, it could even be like “before and after”, health tips. “Oh, he sneezed all the time. Then he stopped. Then he did this and look, he’s all healthy.”

Jill Perardi: Yeah, absolutely. Or “You asked for it” as message one. Message two is “We listened”. Message three is “Better vision insurance is coming with open enrollment”; message for open enrollment date.

Derek DeWitt: That’s quite nice.

Jill Perardi: Yeah. So, tell that story, whether it be fun, practical, or motivates people to do something, like get to that campaign.

Derek DeWitt: And always, always, always with this idea of some kind of call to action.

Jill Perardi: Yes. Without a doubt.

Derek DeWitt: So, a lot of this is going to be visual, but as I said at the beginning, a lot of it’s going to be words. And so, tell us some of your tips for writing good copy.

Jill Perardi: Well, we were just talking about call to action; make people do that. I don’t want to say use force, but use strong verbs. Donate, give, enroll, visit. Tell them what you want them to do. Give them a time frame. But call to action, as you just said, is very important. Keep it simple. Use fewer, shorter words, action-oriented verbs (as I just mentioned.), headlines.

Derek DeWitt: Active voice, not passive. It’s actually shorter.

Jill Perardi: Right, right. Absolutely. Appeal to your audience. Know emotional triggers. Know what makes your audience tick. Know what makes them comfortable. Know what makes them act. Know what makes them happy. Whatever your messaging is, know those emotional triggers of your potential audience, and design with those in mind. Appeal to them.

Kind of avoid puns because you may think it’s funny, or it may make sense to you [but] your audience doesn’t get it at all.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. Dad jokes are not always welcome.

Jill Perardi: Yeah, exactly. But it’s really easy. Keep it simple. Use fewer shorter words, give it an action, a strong action. Tell people what to do, when to do it. But know, the best way to design that so people will relate to and feel comfortable with it, and actually do it.

Derek DeWitt: And I think don’t use buzzwords, don’t use corporate speak. First off, it’s wordy and second off, I think it comes off as…you may intend it to be sincere, but it comes off as insincere, especially, I think, to millennials and younger people. They hate being marketed to.

Jill Perardi: Yeah, absolutely.

Derek DeWitt: And I’d also caution, especially for public-facing stuff, not everyone is a fluent English speaker, for example. And so, I think you also want to keep in mind that aspect of your audience. Don’t use highfalutin vocabulary if you’ve got a lot of people who maybe English isn’t their first language, or maybe they only speak in at a B1 level or something. Kind of grade your language and make sure that everybody can access what you’re trying to do.

Jill Perardi: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Your audience could be a giant melting pot, so keep that in mind.

Derek DeWitt: And of course, there’s the fonts, font sizes. What can you tell us about these?

Jill Perardi: Fonts. It’s such a big topic for digital signage, because it can really make or break your messaging. Weight of font – it could be too thin; thin fonts are very modern, but it could be too thin on where it’s located, depending on how your displays are mounted, where they’re mounted. It could be too big; you could have way too large of a font on your small display, and then that doesn’t get read very easily either.

Derek DeWitt: Plus, it takes up space.

Jill Perardi: Yeah, absolutely. It’s taking up very valuable real estate. So just think about your font size. How easily can it be seen? So, I have it written down here, so you’ll excuse me as I’m going to read this off here, but doing some research, basically: 20-point font is easily seen from seven feet away, 50-point from 18 feet away, 100-point from 36 feet away. So, just keep that sort of thing in mind. I mean, that’s really useful information. If your displays are up close, go smaller. And if they’re further away, go larger. That does not mean make that all 100-point bold, all caps. It doesn’t mean that.

Derek DeWitt: It also doesn’t mean, just because you have 150 foot long hallway, let’s say, that you have to do everything at a 100-point font, so that people can see it from 36 feet away, unless you’re trying to catch their attention from 36 feet away.

Jill Perardi: Right. And you’ve totally lost your messaging if you’ve done what you just described. If everything is the same size and it’s all that large, whatever that headline is, or whatever the most important piece of that is, whether it be the all too important call to action that we keep talking about or it’s the headline or whatever it is, that’s going to get lost in your messaging. It’s all too large.

At the same time, limit the number of fonts you use. You don’t want a ton of different fonts because, again, you’ve just totally ruined that seven seconds someone had, or less if they’re walking by. Capture their attention, and get your point across.

Derek DeWitt: Because the eye and the brain have to take time to adjust to different fonts. I know a lot of people think it’s cute to do “Look. Every line’s a different font” and you’re like…

Jill Perardi: It’s not cute.

Derek DeWitt: It’s not cute; it’s irritating. It’s even irritating when it’s in print, frankly.

Jill Perardi: Yeah, absolutely. It’s not cute.

Derek DeWitt: And obviously, the font size you use is going to affect how many words you can get on in a single message, whether they’re linked together in a story or not. What’s the, what’s the general rule of thumb there?

Jill PerardiUse that 3×5 Rule. You’ve probably heard about that, if you ever took a 101 PowerPoint course. Three lines of text with five words per line, or vice versa – five lines of text, three words per line.

And that’s why storytelling is so great. If you have more than that to get out, if you have a lot of copy, or you thought you were going to do a list and you realize your list is ten items long – tell it in a story. Make a message for each one of those parts and pieces. Don’t load up everything on that one message because you need to keep it simple. You need to make it easy to read. You need to keep it clean. Tell your story through a series of messages, for that campaign.

Derek DeWitt: So, it could even be top 10 whatevers – one through three. And then obviously people go, “Oh, it’s called top 10. I get it.” And then the next one – four, five, six. And if that’s when I first interact with this narrative, I know, “Oh, I missed one, two and three, maybe I’ll hang around and see what they are.”

Jill Perardi: Yeah, absolutely.

Derek DeWitt: Obviously we’re more and more used to constraints on how much we can type. Facebook, a couple years ago, expanded greatly their character limit. But we still know, shorter texts get 60% more engagement or something like that. Twitter, what, last year, doubled to 280? But it’s still short. Instagram – they basically say, don’t write a post, just do a bunch of hashtags. Is there a limit really or general rule of thumb for how many characters you should use on a digital sign?

Jill Perardi: You know, it kind of goes to that 3×5 Rule, right? So I’d say 15 words. Maybe stick to about 20 to 25 characters on a digital sign.

Derek DeWitt: So try and use your shorter words.

Jill Perardi: Yeah. And we’re talking about storytelling in this podcast, Twitter is such the leader in that, even though they increased the character limits, people post in threads. They post in threads either because they have a lot they want to say and they can’t post more, which in your digital signage that relates. You have a lot you want to say; you can’t put all those words on there; your font’s too small and it just isn’t going to be read. But also, people like to use Twitter as a storytelling medium.

Derek DeWitt: It does have a certain feel to it.

Jill Perardi: Yeah. I’m going to post this to intrigue you, and then I’m going to tell this part of my story next, this part next, this part next. Next thing you know, you’ve read five posts in a thread and you feel some sort of way about what you just read, and then you move on and you act on it or whatever. Your digital signage, the exact same idea.

Derek DeWitt: So, in some ways these could end up being more effective than just one-off messages.

Jill Perardi: Absolutely. Absolutely. It captures attention and people can connect with that.

Derek DeWitt: So, what kind of language should we use? I would imagine you should be, you said you use direct language. What do you mean? Like declarative statements or…?

Jill Perardi: Yeah, I mean, you could use, “We have a new app. Download it today.”

Derek DeWitt: Right. Or you could even chop more – “New app”.

Jill Perardi: Yeah.

Derek DeWitt: We know it’s yours.

Jill Perardi: Yeah, absolutely. Don’t put the brand on it; we know it’s yours. Don’t waste valuable space.

Derek DeWitt: “The University of Minnesota is proud to announce that a new app is available.” Oh my god! Just “New app”.

Jill Perardi: Yes, absolutely. Just “New app” and then “Download the new app”.

Derek DeWitt: “…today.”

Jill Perardi: Download. Today.

Derek DeWitt: What about questions?

Jill Perardi: Yeah, you can ask questions, but make sure it’s something that’s going to get someone to act. “Do you have the new app?” “Are you missing out?” “Do you know what you’re missing out [on]?” That’s a little long for digital signage, but how about “Do you know what you’re missing?”

Derek DeWitt: Right, yeah. “Do you have the new app, loser?” Probably not that.

Jill Perardi: Just be nice on your digital signage.

Derek DeWitt: Well, I know questions work great for social media. I think you’re really driving people with digital signage messages; you’re trying to drive them to action. Action, action, action. I think you should maybe use questions judiciously because now they’re going to stop. “Do I have the new app?” “Wait, is there a new app?” and at this point now the message has moved on to the next message and you’ve lost them, you know? So, be a little careful with them.

Jill Perardi: I would agree with that. I do think there are times when the question will cause somebody to stop and see what’s next or what’s coming. But I would agree with that. But I will say, even in our interactive content that we create for people, verbs are best because it encourages them and tells them to do something. “View department directory,” you know. “Okay. I’m going to click here to view this.” Same thing, “Download our app.”

Derek DeWitt: And then there’s this concept of chunking information up. What do you know about that?

Jill Perardi: Are you thinking like phone numbers, addresses…?

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jill Perardi: Yeah, absolutely. So digital signage content, chunk it up, do the exact same thing. Keep items grouped and keep them easy to remember. I think that I read the brain basically can hold on to about four things at once.

Derek DeWitt: Right, in short-term memory before it either needs to move to long-term or dump.

Jill Perardi: You know, chunk your messaging. If you have a list, keep it clear and concise. An example of that is a phone number. I don’t say “six one eight five four two”, I say “six-one-eight, five-four-two, five-five, five-five.” You know, I’ve kept them in chunks to say them.

Derek DeWitt: And we do this with long addresses, too. As you know, I don’t live at “4,210”; I live at “42-10”.

Jill Perardi: Right. The difference in that maybe is with alliteration or rhyming, metering, because it’s easy to remember.

Derek DeWitt: Right, it’s catchy.

Jill Perardi: It’s catchy.

Derek DeWitt: It catches musical minds.

Jill Perardi: All the time. I am still singing a phone number of a pizza restaurant back home in southern Illinois. And anybody who’s ever listened to the radio in southern Illinois, at any point in their life, still knows the phone number for Quatro’s Deep Pan Pizza, because it was such a great metered song. Everybody knows it.

Derek DeWitt: Think about how many…A bunch of friends of mine and I at the pub once (we thought we’d play this game for ten minutes, we ended up playing for five hours). How many commercial jingles, over all the years that you’ve been alive, are in your head? I think we just saw “Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man” and couldn’t believe that that’s still their jingle. Because I will find myself, I’m making coffee, I’m going to the shops, whatever – it’s in my head. Because it just sticks in there.

Jill Perardi: Yep. <singing> “Call five-four-nine-five, three-two-six. Quatro’s Deep Pan Pizza.”

Derek DeWitt: And you’re welcome, Quatro’s. You’re welcome for the plug.

Jill Perardi: So, you know, if it’s rhyming, if it’s metering, something like that; you can keep that in your mind. But your digital signage, it doesn’t necessarily have the opportunity to do that. Rhyming, yes, because I’m reading it. I can tell it’s rhyming; I’m thinking about it in my head. But chunk things in groups, and key phrases or key concepts, and it’s just an easy way for people to remember what was on your screen.

Derek DeWitt: What about keywords? I know in marketing these days digital marketing keywords is this whole thing, and that’s how Google AdWords has built their whole business and all this. Can we use this? Does this kind of research, help us with digital signage?

Jill Perardi: It does, and it does so to stay modern and on trend. I don’t mean slang. Not everything on your digital signage needs to say it’s “lit”. You know, maybe not something so hip and cool, right? But use keywords, use trends.

Derek DeWitt: What does that mean by the way, “lit”?

Jill Perardi: It’s “on fire!”

Derek DeWitt: Oh, because in my day, “lit” meant you were really, really stoned.

Jill Perardi: Okay. Yeah. Soooo…

Derek DeWitt: “He’s lit!” So, it now means something else.

Jill Perardi: Uh huh. Yes.

Derek DeWitt: Gotcha.

Jill Perardi: And so be careful with words. And that’s why I said don’t use slang, because it means something totally different. But know your audience. This whole conversation goes back to knowing your audience anyway. Know the story that you’re telling, know where it’s going to show up, where the displays are located. You know, you’ve got to still design for your audience. So, if it’s on a college campus, sure use “lit”. If it’s in a corporate office, and the employees are a variety of ages and demographics and language styles and native languages, as you mentioned, probably steer clear of that.

Derek DeWitt: Probably not, yeah.

Jill Perardi: Yeah. Keywords keep you on what’s fresh and modern now, provided they’re not crazy and slang.

Derek DeWitt: On the other hand, it occurs to me, perhaps judicious use of slang could be…interesting? I don’t know…

Jill Perardi: Oh yeah, yeah. And if you want to find out what’s “lit” right now as a keyword, what’s hot, then go into Google. Use the autocomplete. Start typing in “Who is…?”

Derek DeWitt: Oh, that’s true. “What is…?”

Jill Perardi: Yeah. And Google Trends, that’s an awesome website. It’s really fun to look at. You can see what’s on trend. It kind of knows what people are looking for. And so, if your content isn’t specific to open enrollment, this next event, whatever, you want to just put something else up there, go see what’s trending on Google. What are people looking for? Create messaging about that that’ll catch their eye.

People are already interested in midterm elections, let’s say; put up a few stats and then move on to promoting your event on the next item in your playlist. Now people are looking, and then they see information about your event.

Derek DeWitt: I mean, do you think going to things like Cambridge and Oxford and Webster, utilizing their websites? Because I know a lot of them keep up to date. I know MacMillan has a Buzzword Blog and then I think that a dictionary that’s actually crowdsourced, which is a bit like, there’s this internet slangy…

Jill Perardi: Urban Dictionary?

Derek DeWittUrban Dictionary, right!

Jill Perardi: I probably would stay away from that.

Derek DeWitt: That one has a tendency to be a lot of dirty stuff.

Jill Perardi: Yeah, probably stay away from that.

Derek DeWitt: This is a cleaner version, which is the MacMillan one. And then they also have a blog in which they highlight, “Hey, here’s an interesting word that’s cropping up again.” Or here’s this, or “Did you know that this word used to mean this?” Urban dictionary, yeah, maybe not. Any others out there that work?

Jill Perardi: Yeah, absolutely. As you mentioned, I actually think a lot of the dictionary sites have buzzword blogs or you know, new words that are being added or being changed. I know Merriam-Webster does. Take a look at some of those websites, look at, also kind of a fun thing, there’s a website out there, it’s called Google Fight.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. I know it.

Jill Perardi: And it allows you to kind of compare….it’s kind of fun…and see which of the two is more popular.

Derek DeWitt: It’s a word or short phrase.

Jill Perardi: Yeah, absolutely. And I mean you could do it for anything. Well here’s a great idea: on my digital signage I want to stream television; do I show Good Morning America or the Today show? Well go to Google Fight and put those two shows in.

Derek DeWitt: Which [is] being searched for more often.

Jill Perardi: See which [is] being searched for most, yeah. So, you can do that with different words to figure out which key phrases or words you want to put on the screen, or use it as feedback on what the general population is looking for, and put that information on your screen.

Derek DeWitt: I guess it depends on your content creators and what motivates them and what they’re interested in. But if you have somebody on that team who’s into language… I’m a language guy, I love language. I know you can go to, I think there’s something called which keeps you up on what all the little acronyms mean. I think we all know LOL by now. It doesn’t mean “lots of love”!

Jill Perardi: I was going to say, “Do we?” Because I once had a friend who was dating this lovely woman, her grandmother had passed, and she sent him a text to tell him that she wouldn’t be able to make their date, her grandmother had passed, and he said, “I’m so sorry to hear that. LOL.”.

Derek DeWitt: LOL, yes.

Jill Perardi: Eeeeeeh.

Derek DeWitt: There’s also, there’s a website called English Forums, there’s another one called WordLo (“word l-o”), and all of these are websites that sort of keep their finger on the pulse of what’s happening in English.

Jill Perardi: You know, use those websites, look those things up. But again, I’ve said it a couple of times, just make sure you know your audience. Because again, in some corporate environment; English is not their native language; they’re 20 years older than the person that’s designing the content, just remember that your audience is much larger than you, the designer.

Derek DeWitt: And you’re trying to attract them, not alienate them.

Jill Perardi: Yes.

Derek DeWitt: Usually you might want to do some A/B testing and say, “You know what? Let’s put up what I think might be a modern, cool, hip, slangy version of the message. And then let’s also put up a little more traditional, normal, neutral way, and see which one performs better and so on.

Jill Perardi: At the same time, you don’t want to be outdated. I was looking at… I think Google Trends is fun; I look at it from time to time. And so, they’ve shown the most popular trendy words for each year. And they started doing this, or searches, and they started doing this in 2001. So, if you look back in the first year, 2001; for one thing, they had a category called “music services”.

Derek DeWitt: Oh boy, like Napster….

Jill Perardi: It was number two. Morpheus, that I had never heard of, was number one. The number one searched for consumer brand in 2001 was Nokia.

Derek DeWitt: Oh, because of the phone!

Jill Perardi: The phones. And so, stay on trend. Don’t be outdated. Because if your images that you’re putting on your screens are from 2001, and someone’s holding an old Nokia – that blue phone with the little antenna you could raise – you’ve dated yourself big time.

Derek DeWitt: Which always broke off!

Jill Perardi: Yes, absolutely. But you’ve dated yourself.

Derek DeWitt: You might as well use a sepia filter for that one.

Jill Perardi: Yes, absolutely. So just be careful. The new product that year that was most searched for was Windows XP.

Derek DeWitt: Oh, XP – I hate you!

Jill Perardi: So, make sure your text and your images are modern. But find that balance. Not too modern, not too hip, definitely not outdated. Because your messaging is either going to get lost or become offensive to the person that’s not as modern or hip; or it’s going to be so out of date that it’s just…you’ve lost credit.

Derek DeWitt: And you also run the risk of going so neutral, so bland, that it appeals to no one. Everybody goes, “Oh look, the company’s trying to talk to me again. What does it want?”

Jill Perardi: Yes.

Derek DeWitt: So, we could do a whole other podcast on how to find your voice, and that’s a fine balance too.

Jill Perardi: Your visual voice.

Derek DeWitt: Well, yeah, how do you do that? I think that would completely depend on your audience.

Jill Perardi: Absolutely.

Derek DeWitt: And the demographics of that audience might change over time.

Jill Perardi: Yeah, absolutely. As pretty much all of this does that we’ve talked about today.

Derek DeWitt: So, use language effectively use digital signage messages to link them together to tell stories because they’re memorable and they’re fun. And this is yet another way to really leverage the power of this communications medium. Thank you very much for talking to us, Jill Perardi.

Jill Perardi: Sorry, I sang a jingle on your podcast.

Derek DeWitt: That’s fine, that’s fine. We’ll be hitting them up for some cash, that pizza place.

Jill Perardi: Thanks, Derek.