Big in Japan: Scent-emitting Digital Signage

This Japanese article describes a recent digital signage install by Recruit Co Ltd in Tokyo Station’s underground mall that uses a “Scent-emitting LCD Display System” by NTT Communications Corp to entice passer-byers with some tasty smells. Restaurant and coffee shop advertisers get their video ads shown on a 42-inch LCD screen and are included in a coupon booklet that is part of the display. Recruit’s hypothesis is that hopefully, the sweet smells that fill the surrounding area will get the mall-goers looking at the ads and grabbing the booklets (oh, and ya, going to the restaurants).

A TV that emits smells!…sometimes these “only in Japan” ideas seem a little off to Westerners but who hasn’t been within 50 meters of a McDonald’s and said “smells like French fries”. McDonald’s use of this idea (although in a slightly different iteration) should be proof enough that dialing into people’s lower-level needs gets people into the door.

Combining different types of media or taking several different angles at once could be what makes your OOH or POS advertisements effective. While the scent in the surrounding area plays on the consumer’s psychological needs, the video ads and coupon booklets can hit higher level needs on Maslow’s hierarchy, effectively triggering a wider range of stimuli and catalysts to buying behavior.

An aspect of the above-mentioned article and Recruit Co’s install that I didn’t think made as much sense is their “Commercializer” product/service. The service makes ads for you based on templates with your pictures and copy. The goal is to save costs (i.e. advertiser doesn’t need to spend on making an ad) and (possibly, but not mentioned) end up with an effective ad based on a tried-and-true format. In dealing with clients I know that it is very true that creating content can be a pain; it takes time and it costs more money than you’d initially expect.

When reading about the “Commercializer” I can’t help but hear the cliché phrase made so popular by the Search Engine Optimization industry, content is king. Sure, the service will help save costs, but at what expense? This idea of template-based ads gives me the impression that all the ads will start being very uniform and difficult to distinguish one from another, reducing the effectiveness of the visual portion of the unit.

Anyway, here’s a picture of the digital signage system being tested in the Yaesu Underground Mall:

The digital signage system being tested in the Yaesu Underground Mall.

Digital signage projects failing? You need an integrator!

A study conducted by Futuresource Consulting of 100 digital signage projects in Europe found that almost 10% of them failed while another 10% were only partially successful. So what does this say about digital signage, the product Mirada Media’s pushing? Should we give up and our clients stop their digital signage initiatives? The answer is a big, emphatic NO!

I can’t help but say “I told you so” in regards to the role of digital signage integrators when reading that Futuresource Consulting’s research found that poorly-implemented digital sigange initiatives were : 1) too complex, 2) didn’t have clear goals, and 3) didn’t know how content and the mix could achieve their goals.

The managers of failing digital signage initiatives were dealing with up to 8 individual parties to get their project off the ground and keep it running. After hearing that its easy to see why an integrator can simplify and straighten that mess by being the main party to deal with whether its for dealing with software support, hardware warranties or network management. In our French blog post on the three rules to a success digital signage deployment, we stress that a digital signage vendor should be a digital signage partner. Technologies and your communication goals may change but a partner will always remain to take care of your needs.

Digital signage can be a great communications tool as long as you know what you want to do with it and how you’re going to do it. The number one pitfall when starting a digital signage project is neglecting to set clear goals. Developing a detailed communication plan, goals and ROI will help keep you focused and allow you to evaluate your actions and results.

Closely related to your communication goal is the content. The phrase “content is king” became popular with the internet explosion and Google’s search engine dominance. When the content is relevant, well written and popular, your website shows up in the listings. The same is true with digital signage. What one must remember is that every medium has its method. Ads for print are different than those on billboards. One of the first rules of digital signage ads is the KISS approach: Keep it simple stupid. Keep your eye on the prize when designing content; focus on the message you want your audience to receive. Sure, you want your ads to look nice and take advantage of the benefits of digital, but your audience is usually fleeting so you have to strike a balance between getting your message across and shifting eyeballs towards the screen.