Content is King! Yes, you’ve heard it a million times. Sure, it’s important, but there is an unsung hero—a Robin to the Batman of content. So what deserves the same level of love and respect that content has been receiving for years? It’s programming strategy, and yes, it’s a pretty big deal.

The two go hand-in-hand, and like many great couples, they’re even better together than apart. Think of programming strategy as the steering wheel for your digital signage content. Without it, content plays back aimlessly. But with a highly refined programming strategy, it’s a high-powered marketing engine.

The strategy for how content plays – timing, frequency, duration, organization – defines priorities and brings readability, relevance, context and variety to your messages. That can have just as big an impact on your overall communication and marketing goals as any graphic, video or words can. You not only need the right messages for your audiences: they also need to be played in the right order, at the right time, for the right amount of time.

Batman_vs_Robin.jpgWhen programming content, your overall consideration is the relationship of messages to each other. Individual graphics and text need to fit together on any given screen, and also need to complement or follow one another in a way that will increase audience knowledge or interest and meet the goals of your program. Think of it as 1 + 1 = 3; the sum of your digital signage solution will be greater than any of its individual parts if you program content strategically.

With that understanding as a foundation, consider these programming strategies when creating your content loop:

Event messaging: creating and scheduling messages to have the biggest impact around an event or date. Example: a countdown clock and messages that promote a new business opening.

Chunking or grouping: playing a series of like messages back-to-back so you can emphasize their impact or share more knowledge or information. Example: bundling together a group of messages that promote your fall line-up.

Day parting: changing your playlist composition, order or frequency based on the time of day. Example: fast-food restaurants that change their menu board promotions not just to promote breakfast, lunch and dinner, but also an afternoon pick-me-up tailored to your order: a cookie with the 4 p.m. coffee you just asked for?

Retention: Alternating a mix of information and entertainment (if you use both types of content) to help viewers retain or respond to your message. Example: movie theaters that offer quick, fun pre-show quizzes to draw your attention to concession stand offers.

Programming volume: Adjusting the length of programming in light of the environment in which it will be viewed and the attention span of viewers. Too long or too short and you squander your opportunity to communicate effectively. Example: a five-minute program loop in a waiting room is too short if the average wait time is 20 minutes.

While most programming strategies are developed and executed in advance, contextually based playback is beginning to gain traction. This goes beyond the notion that if it’s raining, you should show ads for umbrellas. You’re still leveraging information like weather or consumer buying patterns, but what you do with that data is more sophisticated. For example, a rainy day could trigger playback of content in your paint department that highlight warm tones to offset the dreary weather (and sometimes mood) of your audience.

If you’re looking for additional tips on planning your digital signage solution, check out our newly revamped Digital Media Iceberg white paper. And for more on Digital Signage as a Service, our comprehensive approach to creating and managing digital signage experiences that includes everything from design and deployment to creative and ongoing support, click here.