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Thoughtful analysis, industry news and best practices for digital signage, M2M and kiosk projects

Video: Get Viewers Moving With a Compelling Call-to-Action

Author: Bill Gerba on 2013-09-11 12:16:07

As we continue to create short videos based on our making great digital signage content series, today's edition brings us to one of the most important topics of all: writing effective calls to action that make your viewers want to sit up and... well... take some kind of action. It's hard to understate the importance of a powerful call-to-action. But suffice it to say that I've never even heard of a piece of content that can perform its task (advertising a product, promoting an event, educating people about some particular topic, etc.) without one. So, without further ado, let's move on to the video.

Writing Great Copy: Compelling Calls to Action

If you're reading this article in a web browser, the video should appear below. If you don't see it, simply click this link to watch the video.



Here's a transcript of the video

Whether you use digital signage to advertise, educate or inform, the content on your screens needs to connect with your viewers and deliver a clean, clear message. But as critical as content is to making a digital signage project a success, many still struggle to produce attractive, efficient and effective segments to show on their screens.

Fortunately, making great digital signage content is as much science as it is art, and with a few simple tips and techniques you can supercharge bland, ineffective clips, making them into memorable, efficient delivery mechanisms for your messages.

And in these videos, we're going to show you how, one step at a time. Tip #5: Writing Great Copy: Compelling Calls to Action.

So, what is a call to action? Well, it's an offer or an opportunity for your viewer to perform some task in response to the content on your screen. A strong call to action is what separates an expensive but money-losing digital retailing project from a profitable one with a strong ROI. As any regular reader of the WireSpring blog knows, we are huge proponents of using a full-time call-to-action in digital signage content, whether in the form of a command, a declarative statement or even just a suggestion.

When writing calls to action, we recommend the copywriter consider the 3 C's: be clear, be concise, and be compelling. A compelling statement drives viewers to take action. And as for being clear and concise, the more quickly and easily the action can be completed, the greater your "conversion rate" will be. If the purpose of your sign is anything other than to sit there and look cool (which admittedly is the purpose of some installations), converting viewers into actors is a very important thing -- maybe the most important.

Because the call to action is so important, ideally it should remain on screen for the entire duration of your message. If that's not practical, consider showing it several times per spot so that casual viewers have a better opportunity to see it (assuming your spots are more than a few seconds long, of course).

Start the call-to-action with a verb, and keep the verb and subject close together. And of course, don't forget to follow the guidelines for using the serial position effect, chunking and coding, and contextual relevance! Everything that we've talked about regarding memory and recognition in those articles is even more applicable to your call to action statements, since they're the things you want to be most memorable.

Writing a short, polished and effective call-to-action is still something of an art form. But in the course of researching this, we found a great source of inspiration: Google AdWords. Do a search for any term that's related to what your content is promoting, and chances are that somebody has already thought long and hard about the few dozen or so characters that will best convince viewers to pay attention.

Since actions that can be taken immediately tend to convert best, focus on those -- just make sure you don't tell a viewer to do something that they can't or likely won't do.

While there is no sure-fire formula for writing a compelling call to action, we can focus in on a few more techniques to make our copy more memorable and actionable. For example...

Target common needs: Pulling a page directly out of Dr. Abraham Maslow's playbook, try focusing your text on some of humanity's most basic needs. Your audience and your content goals will help determine whether they should be "base" needs like those for food or shelter, or if they should appeal to our higher reasoning and emotive centers -- or maybe some combination of them. For example, if your campaign for the Carrot Grower's Association of America centers around the CTA "Buy Carrots", you might try changing it to "Stay fit. Eat healthy. Buy carrots." It's a bit longer, but it calls on physical and esteem needs to make the sale.

Next, use trigger words to grab your viewer's attention. Words like Money, Discovery, Save, Easy, New, Love, Health, Proven, You, Results, Guaranteed and Safety can make otherwise uncommitted viewers snap to attention.

Next, while often not critical, consider testing the "reading level" of the text. We sometimes use big or complex words in the name of brevity, but this can put a limit on the number of people who can actually read our signs. By testing your copy and simplifying it when appropriate, you can open your message up to a huge segment of the population that would have had trouble reading the more complex first version.

Next, use action words and be vivid. As copywriting guru Michael Fortin notes, "Don't stick with mere verbs. Use action words that help paint vivid pictures in the mind. The more vivid the picture is, the more compelling [and memorable] the headline will be. For example, a headline like 'zoom past the confusion' will be better than 'discover how to do it right'".

Finally, use commands. Tell your audience exactly what you want them to do, and provided it's easy enough (or has a big enough potential upside for them), they might just do it.

We've been talking mostly about the "DO's" of writing effective calls to action. But now let's add a DON'T. Specifically, don't fall into what marketing guru Seth Godin calls the "Dead Zone of Slick." In short, Godin describes this as a situation (or piece of content) that has "Not enough gloss to be slick, [but] too much to be real." In the digital signage world, this often translates simply to "eye candy."

If you keep your content "real" -- or authentic and useful -- by sticking to the fundamentals of making great content, chances are you'll see good results. However, properly applied "gloss" can attain even better results, as long as you manage to stay out of the "dead zone." When in doubt, leave it (the eye candy) out, I say. But if you're confident, or if you're already split testing your content (and you should be!), you might just want to give it a try.

Great copy is key to making digital signage content that converts. But even the most magnificent prose in the world won't help if no one can read it. That's why our next video will focus on that very topic: font size, shape and readability.

If you'd like to take a deeper dive into today's topic, or if you'd like to learn more tricks about making great digital signage content, visit www.wirespring.com/blog and do a search for "Making great digital signage content."

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Video: Learn About Power Slogans to Write Better On-Screen Text

Author: Bill Gerba on 2013-08-27 12:58:07

As we continue converting our making great digital signage content articles into YouTube videos, today's episode delves into the complex world of copywriting. Since the words on your screens do the heavy lifting of communicating complex ideas to viewers who often have very short attention spans, we'll be focusing on a few tips and techniques for maximizing the impact of your most important phrases.

Writing Great Copy: Power Slogans and Reading Bottlenecks

If you're reading this article in a web browser, the video should appear below. If you don't see it, simply click this link to watch the video.



Here's a transcript of the video

Whether you use digital signage to advertise, educate or inform, the content on your screens needs to connect with your viewers and deliver a clean, clear message. But as critical as content is to making a digital signage project a success, many still struggle to produce attractive, efficient segments to show on their screens.

Fortunately, making great digital signage content is as much science as it is art, and with a few simple tips and techniques you can supercharge bland, ineffective clips, making them into memorable, efficient delivery mechanisms for your messages.

And in these videos, we're going to show you how, one step at a time. Tip #4: Writing Great Copy: Power Slogans and Reading Bottlenecks.

If you were to ask a graphic designer who has developed content for digital signage what the most important element of any spot is, they might tell you about visual design, the presence of branding or the best way to use animation. If you ask someone who has actually looked into the science of what makes content perform, though, they'll tell you that far and away, the words on the screen (or spoken via a voiceover) do the vast majority of the "work" in any spot, whether it's meant to advertise a product or promote an event.

And if you stop and think about it, that should come as no surprise. After all, many of the greatest ad campaigns in history boiled down to no more than a few words -- no more than a sentence at most.

In fact, back in 2000, some high-minded advertising folks got together and identified the 115 best slogans, straplines, taglines, and headlines that they could come up with.

Then, a few years later, the authors at A List Apart, a popular weblog, dissected these 115 items to find out what makes great copy. They were able to distill out 6 simple rules:
  • Be five words in length
  • Don't mention brand name
  • Be declarative
  • Be grammatically complete
  • Be otherwise standard
  • Contain alliteration, metaphor, or rhyme
Most of the guidelines are common sense -- for example, short phrases are quicker to read and easier to remember. But how do these rules play out on the digital signage screen?

As it turns out, some of them can have pretty significant consequences. Take message length, for example. After hundreds of hours of research comprising tens of thousands of impressions and viewer surveys, we're confident that:
  • Each message should be no more than 5-6 words long. 3-4 words is better.
  • There should never be more than about 22 characters worth of messages on the screen at once.
  • You should put no more than one or two messages on the screen at a time.
  • And of course, make sure text is on-screen for long enough to actually read it.
Every message in your content is important, but none is more important than the call-to-action -- that critical notice that compels your viewers to take action. Next time, we'll talk through some important techniques for making high-performing calls-to-action to turn your viewers into doers.

If you'd like to take a deeper dive into today's topic, or if you'd like to learn more tricks about making great digital signage content, visit www.wirespring.com/blog and do a search for "Making great digital signage content."

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Video: Context, Attention Vampires and Your On-Screen Content

Author: Bill Gerba on 2013-08-15 12:39:31

Continuing our project of converting our making great digital signage content series into YouTube videos, today's video wraps up the discussion on viewer psychology. So far, we've covered the basics of using mnemonic devices (and provided a bit of explanation about why some of them work), and talked about tricks for making messages that are easier to recall. Today, we're going to talk about how the viewer's context -- where they are, both physically and mentally, when they come in contact with your content -- can influence how people receive your messages, and what they decide to do with them.

Context and Attention Vampires

If you're reading this article in a web browser, the video should appear below. If you don't see it, simply click this link to watch the video.



Here's a transcript of the video

Whether you use digital signage to advertise, educate or inform, the content on your screens needs to connect with your viewers and deliver a clean, clear message. But as critical as content is to making a digital signage project a success, many still struggle to produce attractive, efficient segments to show on their screens.

Fortunately, making great digital signage content is as much science as it is art, and with a few simple tips and techniques you can supercharge bland, ineffective clips, making them into memorable, efficient delivery mechanisms for your messages.

And in these videos, we're going to show you how, one step at a time. Tip #3: Contextual Relevance and the Vampire Effect.

Context is important. Really important. And that's because a viewer's perspective and environment physically and psychologically alter the way they take in, comprehend and store information. Let's use the widely recognized skull and crossbones as an example. In a stockroom, pharmacy counter or even your medicine cabinet, a skull and crossbones will immediately equate to danger or poison for most people, thus they'll read the associated message primed with the fear and caution that goes along with that.

But at a theme park, movie store or other entertainment setting, the exact same symbol could easily be interpreted differently -- for example, as pirates -- and the viewer would be primed with a completely different set of feelings and emotions while receiving the rest of the message.

Because context has such a strong effect on how people perceive content, it's also important for visual designers to understand that certain images have far more contextual impact than others. We call these images "attention vampires", because they're able to draw far more of their fair share of attention, thus leaving less for other items.

For example, consider this pair of images, which was taken from a print advertisement for a high-end watchmaker. Although the watchmaker intended for most of the attention to be focused on the watch, as the visual tracking map on the right shows us, the watch did get some attention, but not as much as the people's faces.

Human faces are one of the most powerful attention vampires, as our brains have evolved over millions of years to give us the ability to quickly identify faces with just a few quick cues. Placing even a single image of a human in your content will result in attention being drawn away from other elements on your screen. This in turn means that your viewer will spend more cognitive effort decoding the faces than remembering your messages.

Another powerful attention vampire is imagery of babies. In fact, according to research firms GfK and PreTesting, images of babies and baby faces are the most effective attention vampires of all. While ads that utilize baby imagery as a central and essential part of their message can benefit from this, ads that do feature a baby's face but don't rely on it are at a disadvantage. Additionally, removing the baby context altogether can make for an unintelligible message when that message is baby related.

Now that we know a little about context and the vampire effect, how can we put these things to use?

To begin with, items that we're biologically programmed to notice draw attention away from other areas. This can be either advantageous or disadvantageous, depending on what the main thrust of our message is. When used improperly -- or accidentally -- attention vampires can divert attention away from the star of your content. But when used correctly, they can promote viewer attention in key areas. While this phenomenon exists in all media, glance media like digital signage are most susceptible.

If you've made it through these first three videos in our series on making great digital signage content, you should have a solid foundation in viewer psychology and mnemonics. In our next video, we'll be putting these skills to use as we discuss some tips and tricks for writing great digital signage copy.

If you'd like to take a deeper dive into today's topic, or if you'd like to learn more tricks about making great digital signage content, visit www.wirespring.com/blog and do a search for "Making great digital signage content."

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Video: Make On-Screen Content Memorable with Chunking and Coding

Author: Bill Gerba on 2013-08-07 09:47:09

Continuing our theme from last week, we're converting the majority of our articles on making great digital signage content into short YouTube videos, which should provide a fun and engaging way to learn about some of the best practices that we've highlighted over the years. Today's video builds on our earlier discussion of chunking and coding. While keeping us rooted in the psychology of the viewer, this video offers up a few more ways of making the ideas you're trying to communicate on screen more memorable, and thus easier to recall later.

Chunking and Coding

If you're reading this article in a web browser, the video should appear below. If you don't see it, simply click this link to watch the video.



Here's a transcript of the video

Whether you use digital signage to advertise, educate or inform, the content on your screens needs to connect with your viewers and deliver a clean, clear message. But as critical as content is to making a digital signage project a success, many still struggle to produce attractive, efficient segments to show on their screens.

Fortunately, making great digital signage content is as much science as it is art, and with a few simple tips and techniques you can supercharge bland, ineffective clips, making them into memorable, efficient delivery mechanisms for your messages.

And in these videos, we're going to show you how, one step at a time. Tip #2: Chunking and Coding.

Chunking and coding are two parts of your brain's automatic sorting system. Chunking means breaking large pieces of information into smaller chunks according to some simple rules. It's especially useful if you need to display a large list of items on screen at once. Effectively, chunking means giving your viewer clues about how to remember a sequence of items by dividing that sequence into chunks, each of which is composed of the individual elements you wish to have your viewers remember.

The chunking effect works best with things that naturally break apart into smaller units, like numbers, compound words, and even synonyms. That's why you'd never see a 10-digit number presented like this: 9545483300. Instead, we would always show it like this: 954 548 3300.

Chunking is often used together with coding, which means mentally arranging similar or related items into groups to make them easier to remember. Even though it can be difficult to find ways to make items relate to each other in digital signage content, the effect is worthwhile, since items that can be grouped together according to some common characteristics are far more likely to be recalled correctly later on than items that don't share any characteristics with other things on screen. While natural groupings tend to work best, even artificial groupings like using some kind of visual effect to relate different items together on screen can be effective.

That said, the coding effect does tend to diminish rapidly when using more than five words or phrases, or when using items that don't fall into natural groupings based on concept, language, sound or other characteristics.

So, how can we use our newfound knowledge?

First, we can pre-order our content by grouping key phrases or concepts into distinct areas and times on screen. Next, we can use repetition: by repeating key words, phrases or ideas multiple times in a row, we can reinforce them. Similarly, we can use alliteration: by using words starting with the same letter or sound, we can link them together, again making them more memorable. And finally, we can use the "Rule of 3." Building sentences or phrases as a progression of three clauses is a great way of improving their memorability.

Now that you know a bit more about chunking and coding, you're well prepared for our next video: conquering contextual cues and the vampire effect.

If you'd like to take a deeper dive into today's topic, or if you'd like to learn more tricks about making great digital signage content, visit www.wirespring.com/blog and do a search for "Making great digital signage content."

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Video: Better On-Screen Content with the Serial Position Effect

Author: Bill Gerba on 2013-07-31 11:57:52

It's been a while since we last delved into the subject of making great digital signage content. Despite that, I still routinely get emails, calls and messages about information posted in articles and blog posts from years ago. Since I've found that this kind of information often comes across more effectively in person (for example, during live presentations and seminars), I thought it might be fun to start converting some of our findings and best practices into a series of short, bite-sized videos. We've posted the first of what will hopefully be many today, starting way back at the beginning, with the serial position effect. This is my first foray into making YouTube videos (as will become apparent if you decide to watch it), so please, be kind ;)

The Serial Position Effect

If you're reading this article in a web browser, the video should appear below. If you don't see it, simply click this link to watch the video.



Here's a transcript of the video

Whether you use digital signage to advertise, educate or inform, the content on your screens needs to connect with your viewers and deliver a clean, clear message. But as critical as content is to making a digital signage project a success, many still struggle to produce attractive, efficient segments to show on their screens.

Fortunately, making great digital signage content is as much science as it is art, and with a few simple tips and techniques you can supercharge bland, ineffective clips, making them into memorable, efficient delivery mechanisms for your messages.

And in these videos, we're going to show you how, one step at a time. Tip #1: The Serial Position Effect.

The serial position effect states that given a list of items to remember, the placement of each item in the list will significantly impact its recall-ability. So, for example, if I were to give you the sentence "Please buy eggs, milk, bread and butter," you'd have a very good chance of recalling the last item, as well as the first item, but the items in the middle of the list would be recalled correctly less often.

This can come in handy, because we can use the serial position effect to make lists that are easier to remember. For example, if I had a list of 5 things that I wanted to show on my screen, I would place the most important element at the end of the list, the next most important element at the beginning of the list, and fill out the middle of the list with lesser items. This way, the most important elements in my list would be the most likely to be remembered.

We can even take things a step further. For example, we can enhance the primacy effect, which helps us remember items at the beginning of a list, by presenting those items slower. This gives the viewers' brains more time to process these early messages, and there's a better chance they'll be able to move them into their short term memory store.

Likewise, we can enhance the recency effect, which is the effect that helps us remember items at the end of a list, by leaving ample time after showing the last list item. However, the recency effect is greatly diminished when an interfering task is given. In other words, if you have a call to action at the end of your content, keep it short and simple so that it won't compete with your core message.

I hope you've learned a thing or two about making your lists more memorable. In our next video, we'll add a few more tools to the memory toolbox when we discuss chunking and coding.

If you'd like to take a deeper dive into today's topic, or if you'd like to learn more tricks about making great digital signage content, visit www.wirespring.com/blog and do a search for "Making great digital signage content".

Did you find this video helpful? Is the information easier to digest in video form compared to a regular article? Leave a comment and let us know!

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