Want global growth? Use the human touch!

Zuzana Yalcin joined Digital Signage Today via Zoom to discuss global signage and its intersection with marketing, technology and values, offering a holistic view. This perspective is informed by her work at easescreen, where in less than a year her dedication and grasp of the industry has led to her promotion as head of marketing.

Lead, recruit outside the box

One of the first lessons Yalcin shared was that digital signage and marketing firms succeed when they think (and recruit) outside the box, citing her own rise in digital signage starting out as a writer with no background in the industry. She was recruited in part because she brought an outsider’s perspective and a newcomer’s passion to the work. (This reminded us of Stephen Dorsey’s advice on inclusive hiring to boost talent.)

Yalcin pointed out a great lesson in leadership (both in signage and in general) she learned from her own boss: it’s not about being the smartest person in the room, it’s about finding the smartest people to put in the room.

“He hires people that can do what he cannot do,” Yalcin said. “He will choose a developer because they are better at coding than him. But that requires a lot of humility.”

Think global: passion and promise fuel success

Another core lesson is seeing digital signage as a tapestry of many threads, each made of a vertical. “What fascinates me about the industry as a marketing person is that digital signage is kind of the marriage between IT and marketing,” Yalcin said. “You really need both to succeed.”

Incorporating technical knowledge to create and support excellent software and hardware is key, of course, but in Yalcin’s view, the human touch is just as important, along with genuine passion, from products to customers. “I think you really have to be passionate about digital signage,” she said. “I think it shows more when you’re not than it may do in other industries.”

For Yalcin, that passion comes from realizing that digital signage is an integral part of nearly everybody’s daily life, which is part of why digital signage as a silo of “tv screens on a wall” is melting down. “Digital signage is everywhere we go; it’s literally a part of our daily lives. So, it’s all already connected. And what I like to think about are huge takeovers because they really show what’s possible with existing signage installations.” Yalcin mentioned the Samsung takeover of Times Square screens, along with Germany’s DOOH industry partnership with the government for cross-brand emergency alerts in case of national emergency, a valuable strategy learned after the pandemic.

Similarly, the industry is learning the value of local signage with targeted, relevant messaging, whether it’s DOOH creative advertising or local alerts and event information. Throughout European markets, digital signage operators realized during lockdowns that signage was going unused in many buildings, such as corporate lobbies, so emerging technologies and mobile interactivity, including pushing content to mobile devices, became more important, yet another example of the old divisions between signage and other technologies breaking down as the metaverse evolves.

Another product of the pandemic and the aftermath of lockdowns: the rise of room booking and desk booking as important signage applications (both hardware and software) as businesses downsize their brick-and-mortar spaces (often saving lease fees in the process) and consolidate shared working spaces. This has become popular as hybrid and remote work have become more common and consolidation of digital signage firms has accelerated.

“It kind of goes hand in hand with the market in general coming together,” she said. And this isn’t just limited to well-publicized mergers like Poppulo absorbing FourWinds. “Also companies are talking more with each other. The digital signage market was extremely fragmented and very local, very regional, and that’s changed, that’s definitely shifting.”

In a way, this is necessary, with the broad scope of digital signage operators. “For example, we have a huge grocery chain called Kaufland operating mainly in Germany but also eastern Europe and central Europe,” Yalcin said. “We have deployed over 9,000 licenses at the moment so that project can be done. That’s the only reason why it works across countries, across so many individual stores. It’s because of the solution — we think globally.”

Content requires communication and isn’t an afterthought

We mentioned the story shared by Stephen Dorsey about a large signage rollout which had cutting-edge displays installed, but at the time of launch, no content to put on those displays. Content as an afterthought has been a problem cited by many industry experts, and Yalcin puts it down to poor communication, which can put the industry as a whole in a bad light.

“This has definitely been an ongoing issue of, you know, just people not talking with each other,” Yalcin said. “For example, facilities management has an expectation that marketing is going to take over (as) a digital signage channel, but nobody ever talked to the marketing person. Nobody ever taught them how to do digital signage content, or, nobody restructured internal resources to free them up for the work, or, nobody ever thought that they actually, personally, had to do it.

“So, yes, it has definitely been a problem,” Yalcin continued. “And the reason why it’s such a big problem is because it leaves a bad reputation for everybody. Because people don’t blame it on the project. They blame it on digital signage. They think digital signage is so complicated, it’s so much work and nobody knows how to do it.”

Echoing several experts we have spoken to, Yalcin recommended clear communication for projects and for the industry as a whole.

Another core strategy is automation. “Use as much automation as possible, like pulling content from social media, from existing channels, content that you have a routine of producing, that has an audience already and that you know works with your audience,” Yalcin said.

But how to make that content truly gripping to the viewer? Again, the human touch is key. “It’s in the small details like localization, personalization, that really makes them stand out,” Yalcin said. “It makes them (viewers) feel like ‘it actually concerns me as a person.’ It’s not just a generic screen that I walk by every single day.”

Yalcin mentioned public transport systems like Australia’s, which makes a point to add humor to content to make it interesting to passersby. “It just makes it more intimate, more personal,” she added. “I don’t think content is the king, I think message is the king. I think that’s really being overlooked. I think we’re talking a lot about immersive experience. And we usually think of those huge, 360-degree installations that are impossible not to immerse yourself in because it’s just everywhere.

“But I think true immersion happens when the message touches the heart, because that’s where you start taking it in. That’s where the line between outside and inside dissolves, and it’s immersive because you let it in, you become a part of it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a huge installation or just a small screen in a box or at a store, it just has to have a message that’s relevant for you.”

(2023, January 17). Daniel Brown – Editor, Networld Media Group. Retrieved from https://www.digitalsignagetoday.com/articles/want-global-growth-use-the-human-touch/