One of the first things a good digital signage consultant is going to ask a client is: “Who is your audience?”
That can sometimes be easily defined, or be really hard, when it comes to catch-alls like mass transport or shopping malls.
Adobe has been releasing a series of surveys looking at how consumers look at and absorb content, and a recent one – The State of Content: Expectations on the Rise – caught my eye, as it provides some useful insights on the importance of really thinking about the audience and tuning the content to that group, when possible.
The free report was released a couple of months ago, based on September interviews of some 2,000 Americans, 18+. The report makes it very clear that what interests, attracts and holds boomers like me isn’t necessarily going to work for Generation X and certainly not for Millennials. That’s important, because programming/content decisions on many networks may be getting made by people from a different age bracket that’s out of tune with the core audience.
And it works both ways. Yes, Boomers often don’t “get” Millennials. My daughter sent me a video link the other day she thought was fall-down funny. But are Millennials any more likely to understand what interests Boomers?
The point is that what’s on those screens MUST resonate with the core audience. If it doesn’t, in the most simple terms, “It ain’t working.”
Here are some of the insights that struck me from this research:
1 – We all have multiple devices, and are incredibly distracted now.
Millennials use, on average, seven devices and refer to 14 different content sources. Boomers use four devices and have, on average, nine different content sources. At any given time, we’re all “multi-screening” – using an average of 2.42 devices at once. Almost half of millennials admit they are distracted consumers, as a result.
The effect of that distraction – we prefer to skim brief information pieces, and would rather watch a video than read a lengthy news report.
2 – Entertainment value and design quality are just as valuable as accuracy.
A little disturbingly – the younger the crowd, the more likely those viewers are to put more importance on the entertainment value of something than its accuracy. A third of Millennials say entertainment value is more important, while that number dips to 10 percent among Boomers.
3 – Peers, family and friends are more trusted as content sources than professional content producers.
The rush to generate content, and the wobbly concern over its accuracy, has led to consumers, as a whole, being very suspicious about the bias of news or the accuracy, particularly, of images. In a weird twist – and a show of the plunging regard for news organizations – the most trusted sources of content are peers, colleagues and friends and family.
4 – Design quality matters when content consumption time is fleeting.
The research shows people – particularly those Millennials – will invest more of their fleeting attention time looking at something that is beautifully designed than something simple and plain. The research found the most important factors for content on screens were:
- the content holds viewer attention;
- it displays well;
- it has good design qualities, like layout and appealing visuals.
The least important – and this should be instructive to the crowd that goes on and on about “engagement” – was content that was interactive.
As always, what’s important to people regarding the screens in their hands, on their desks and in their living rooms doesn’t necessarily align with what’s important with respect to digital signage and Digital OOH screens in public spaces. The dynamics are different.
But this sort of research offers both clues and cues.
If your crowd, your core audience, skews to Millennials because that’s the core workplace population or the target consumer, then your creative and content programming approach better be thinking in terms of what resonates for that bunch. The templates you’d normally use, the content subscription mix, the design approach might all be spot on, or completely wrong.
The smart approach is, at minimum, to test and tweak, test and tweak, your approach. The entirely wrong approach – and we all see it – is to just copy what others do, use the content that’s available or cheap to subscribe to, and load it all on the screen, assuming everyone will like it or love it. As the great Denys Lavigne (Arsenal/Christie) says, you have to earn viewers.
There is so much good information out there. It doesn’t need to say DIGITAL SIGNAGE RESEARCH to make it relevant.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.