Primary vs Secondary Digital Signage Content

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As a digital signage pro, you’re familiar with the variety of digital signage content available for your digital signage campaigns. So, here’s a challenge for you that may enhance the way you plan your content campaigns. This new perspective is quite easy to understand as we divide all of your content into no more than two clean and simple categories.

Most important is finding that healthy balance between these two divisions, and that balance depends on a few key circumstances. In the end you’ll find that there are cases where a 50:50 ratio is ideal. Then you’ll find in some scenarios, the display is not big enough for both, so one category prevails and takes center stage. Either way, first, let’s take a look at what exactly these categories are. 

Primary digital signage content

As its name suggests, primary content is the essential one. It’s necessary to make digital signage a profitable investment. It drives business up or makes it more efficient. Primary content refers to material aiming to achieve a business goal and its sole purpose of delivering information to the viewer that is in some way beneficial to driving the success of the business.

Stock graph pointing upwards

While it is essential, primary content can very easily become boring, dull, and at times come across even as forceful. If all your displays consist of ads, the viewer may get tired and learn to ignore them. Add to that the consistent repetition of identical content, and it may even veer into annoyance. To get a clearer picture, here is what is meant by primary content.

Primary content categories

  • Informative campaigns vary depending on institution or business type. Waiting room displays can show the next customer in line. Bakeries and restaurants can update their daily or hourly offers. Banks can display currency exchange rates. You get the picture. This category of content refers to any unique information that your establishment provides to a target audience.
  • Branding campaigns can talk about your corporate identity. You want to share the history and the envisioned future of your business with your consumer. This is vital for customer loyalty.
  • Advertising quite directly aims to sell goods and services. This can refer to your own offers or third-party offers done through your digital signage.
  • Public Safety Announcements are a big content category which has soared in 2020, for obvious reasons. It is primary digital signage content when its task is to enforce necessary guidelines.
  • Wayfinding achieves the purpose of providing useful locational information. This is a great category to take as an example as it’s something that doesn’t change much. Consumers who already know their way around will learn to ignore it, hence you need to mix it up with other content. 

Secondary digital signage content

If primary content is the yin, secondary content is the yang. It aims to balance out all the tediousness from repetitive primary content. Within this category falls all digital signage content non-essential for the business. Of course, if we ignored all non-essential things in life, we wouldn’t have most of the things we have today. Just because we label something non-essential, it doesn’t mean it is irrelevant. While it may be non-essential to the survival of the business, it can act as a catalyst to make primary digital signage content more successful. 

Illustration featuring a variety of social media logos

Secondary refers to content aiming to entertain, intrigue, and attract the attention of the viewer. The main benefit of using secondary content is its ability to keep any display interesting in the long run and for viewers to appreciate the primary content displayed alongside it. 

Secondary content categories

  • Cartoons, YouTube playlists, or even certain TV channels can be a way to provide digital signage content which does nothing else but entertain. It has no ties to it, no hidden agenda, no dollar signs. It is what every audience type can watch. When they see such content, they know nothing is asked of them, and no information is being fed into their heads. It’s pure fun with no strings attached.
  • Fun facts are indeed new information, but it’s entertaining information that is not connected to selling any product, service, or profit. As such it is very digestible. Fun facts will do best if they’re in some way related to the environment they’re presented in. Thus, dentists’ waiting rooms can display fun facts about teeth! Of course, those had better be truly fun facts and not a Wikipedia article. Remember, it’s not just about entertainment. It’s about quality entertainment.
  • Interactivity is a clear path to fun. The current pandemic has opened up the path to more ways of interactivity than just touchscreens. Interactivity on its own is interesting. And as you may use it for an operational or business-focused purpose, you may also use it for entertainment.
  • Geography and history is another interesting category. When used in the same sentence, those two words likely bring a flashback to school classes when you were 12, but look at it from a different perspective. All cities, all locations, have a rich history and something interesting to be told. Building up a fact base on that topic can be a neat addition to your secondary digital signage content collection.

Balancing the two

It’s really not difficult to find a healthy balance of the two categories. Overall, you want your viewer to catch a glimpse of both. However, sometimes that may not be possible. Here are two defining parameters to finding said balance:

  • The number of displays within viewing range of the customer
  • The amount of time they will spend in front of a display 

A scale with cardboard boxes

The relevance of the number of displays can be seen, for instance, in bank waiting rooms. They tend to have more than one display. So dedicating one to currency conversion full-time is alright when there are other displays in the room. In serious surroundings we don’t want to bombard viewers with frequently rotating digital signage content all over. 

When it comes to time spent in front of a display, airports are a good example for this point. There’s a lot of waiting done at airports, and as the passengers wait at the gate, secondary content can be a great way to lower perceived waiting time.

An entirely different example are storefront ads. Nobody is going to stand around watching a cartoon or a TV show in front of your store. These prolonged entertainment categories are reserved for areas where people have time to spare, such as waiting rooms or queues. In the case of storefront displays, there isn’t much to be achieved with secondary content. There isn’t enough time to create a stable content balance from the viewer’s perspective. Here you must choose which category to show in the few seconds you have. It might as well be the primary category. The circumstances may change, of course. If you install an interactive display in your storefront, then the game is on! The consumer spends more time in front of the display, and the potential for more content unlocks.

Examples of balance

  • Supermarkets tend to have queues, so having a bit of secondary content at the cash register can reduce perceived waiting times. And while secondary content dominates at the cash register queue, primary dominates in other parts of the store. Other displays throughout the store can focus on special offers, discounts, and 2-for-1 specials as the shopper has a buying mindset.
  • Smaller stores which usually don’t have queues the likes of which you see in a supermarket don’t have a lot of time for either of the two categories. Again you have precious little time, but not so little that you can’t make an impression. Set up a rotation of primary content, with a dash of secondary. You want your visitor to see an ad, but amid your ads, schedule a health-related fun fact to pop up on the screen for a minute or two.
  • Casual restaurants can incorporate secondary content significantly more, as people spend time between ordering and eating. Per the speed of service and the customer trajectory, fast food restaurants would do best to separate these categories by displays, i.e. a menu board should be a menu board 24/7. Dedicate other displays to secondary content with an occasional blip of primary, such as ads or social media campaigns.
  • Restaurants use the secondary category in the form of crackling firewood, (muted) music videos, or generic TV shows. You know, those shows that nobody really sits down to watch at home, but they’re interesting enough to watch during lunchtime.
  • Hotels are large spaces and can lay out many different variations of content. During check-in, perhaps it’s best to focus on primary content, showcasing services or upgrades to hotel visitors. If there are perks shared by all hotel visitors, this would be a good opportunity to remind them. They may be unaware they have breakfast or access to the spa as part of their stay. Secondary content should dominate in areas where people go to relax. They don’t want to see ads there, so don’t show them.

Merging the two

While they can be mixed around separately, you can combine the primary and secondary categories into one element. Social media interactivity, for example, represents a crossroads between these two. Merge the entertainment factor of posting on social media with your business goals. Users can get discounts or special offers when posting a selfie from within your business and using a specific hashtag. 

Another example of the merger are cool ads. An ad that’s funny, intriguing, or simply clever, is sharable and fun to look at. If people want to take a picture of it and share it, it’s both useful to your business, and entertaining to the viewer, such as this coughing billboard. 

Hopefully, viewing your content through the lens of primary-secondary content will open up the road to new possibilities. Note that this division also applies to other content types that we couldn’t fit into this article. Corporate communications, for instance. But I am confident enough that you are able to convert the application on your own. 

Finally, setting up a diverse rotation is effortless with the right digital signage software. Some software even generates quality content for you. For instance, OnSign TV offers content categories, such as the Today in History, showcasing fun facts that happened on any given day. Try it out, alongside all of OnSign TV’s features with the free 14-day trial. No credit card needed!