Here in the US, Memorial Day is widely viewed as the start of summer, so a lot of you are probably making plans to get the kids off to camp, visit family and friends, or just get a little bit of time away from the office right about now. As I was discussing plans with a colleague, he brought up something I don't remember very fondly from the summers of my youth: the Summer Reading List. You know -- that list of books that you had to read before the first day of school in the fall. Frankly, I don't know when or how this concept came about, but I can recall many a Labor Day weekend (the traditional end of summer here) where I'd be frantically "reading" volumes late into the night trying to get ready for school the following week. If you'd like to recreate that experience for yourself, or maybe show a little solidarity and support for your own kids this summer, I've put together my own recommended reading list to peruse. But instead of a tired old collection of books that your teacher picked out, we're going to focus on some of the most interesting questions that we all face in working with digital signs and kiosks. Here are my top recommendations for you and your team, grouped into a few categories:
Books about in-store marketing
Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping
By Paco Underhill
Some people think the observations in Why We Buy are too obvious to be noteworthy. I disagree. While some of the tips are common sense, this book is still a must-read for anyone involved in delivering messages to shoppers in our increasingly cluttered retail environments. Underhill's follow-up work, Call of the Mall is also compelling, but builds upon many of the trends noted in this quick read.
The Power of Marketing at-Retail
By Robert Liljenwall
POPAI has been publishing this impressive resource for many years, and this latest edition covers both traditional in-store messaging (like POP displays) as well as newer technologies like digital signage (expect a more complete review of the new, revised edition in the near future). It's also full of high-quality photos of successful in-store campaigns. If you're a POPAI member, you may already have a copy on your company's bookshelf, so ask around.
Books about digital signage
Lighting Up the Aisle
By Laura Davis-Taylor and Adrian Weidmann
We first wrote about Lighting Up the Aisle when it came out last year. It focuses on how to implement digital signage in a retail environment, including a handy list of warning signs that your project might be on shaky ground.
Digital Signage: Software, Networks, Advertising, and Displays: A Primer for Understanding the Business
By Jimmy Schaeffler
I haven't read this one yet, but reportedly I'm quoted in the introduction, so it must be good :) I've also heard good things from other people whose opinions I generally trust. My take is that it appears to be a little more focused on the components of a digital signage network than Lighting Up the Aisle is, so it's probably a good complement to Laura and Adrian's book. Again, I hope to be able to speak more intelligently about it in a few weeks when I've actually gotten around to reading it.
Books about branding and the customer experience
Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands
By Kevin Roberts
Since many out-of-home media campaigns are designed to improve brand recognition, it's helpful to understand what makes for a world-class brand that consumers can relate to. This book looks at the characteristics of great brands that have persevered over time, and unlike many other marketing and branding-related books, approaches the subjects in an easy to understand fashion.
Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time
By Howard Schultz
Starbucks has been taking a lot of criticism lately, but the insights that Schultz shares here are pretty timeless. Whether you're working with retail stores, banks, restaurants, medical offices, or another type of venue, this book will give you ideas about how to improve the customer experience at your sites.
By Julian Treasure
Depending on how you use it, audio can be a great asset -- or a huge nuisance. This book looks at how to drive sales and improve worker productivity by fine-tuning the ambient sounds in your environment. Since in-store audio has a lot in common with digital signage and other out-of-home media, the tips can be applied to a wide range of applications.
So, now you've got my recommended summer reading list. I hope you'll give at least one or two of these books a try and let me know what you think. Of course, if you really want to solidify your knowledge of the industry you could always go back and re-read the 250+ articles in our archives. Considering how wordy my writing is, though, you might have an easier time wading through War and Peace a few times... :)
Meanwhile, I'd like to open the floor to other suggestions:
Are there any books you've found really helpful for understanding retail, advertising, or other topics? What about business books in general?
Leave a comment and let me know!