Money Flows Where The Herd Goes

Over the past two years, I’ve spoken and written extensively about the trends and events that are facilitating a gigantic mobile revolution.  The point of my efforts has been to educate the digital signage industry on how the exploding consumer affinity for mobile will ultimately impact both digital signage and digital signage ad revenue.   

Reactions to my work have been mixed.  Although most have embraced my message, others – particularly those involved in ad-funded digital signage – have attacked my work (and sometimes me) as being nothing more than a self serving promotion of a personal agenda at the expense of digital signage.   

Today it is clear that the impact of the mobile revolution has been far greater than the wildest expectation of almost everyone.  In only a year, the growth in mobile has been so dramatic that hundreds of thousands of smartphones are now being sold daily, tens of millions of apps are now being downloaded weekly and billions in new ad dollars are now being funneled to mobile annually. 

Earlier in the week I had a discussion with one of my detractors.  I asked him if he still felt the same about my message given the market feedback and all that has transpired in the mobile space within the past year.  Net on net, he agreed that mobile is having an impact on digital signage but he still maintained that certain digital signage implementations have a distinct value that mobile cannot address. 

Although I fully agreed with his position, I pointed out that our respective views on the matter were in fact irrelevant. The research clearly shows that for a marketer to ignore mobile at this point would mean career suicide for the poor soul. The bottom line is that money flows where the buzz goes — and the buzz is certainly in mobile. 

While it is true that money flows where the buzz goes, it is also true that the money flows where the herd goes.   Everyone knows that a stampede starts with a few spooked cattle.  Once the stampede begins, the entire herd follows.  None of the cattle question why they’re stampeding; they only know that the leaders are running and so should they.   That’s where we are in retail.

In retail, the mobile stampede is underway.  The Best Buys, Penney’s, Targets, Amazons, eBays, Starbucks, Pizza Huts and other leaders in the retail world have embraced mobile and it’s working for them – and working very well.  They’re off and running and the rest of the herd have taken notice and is following suit. The herd is not stopping to ask why they’re running.  No, they only know that if they don’t run they’ll fall prey to the wolves. 

So what about those situations in which digital signage is clearly a better fit than mobile?  For all but the most forward thinking companies (aka the leaders), digital signage is likely to be an afterthought – on the back burner so to speak.  The herd will not consider digital signage regardless of its value. 

The herd will be more focused on how they’re going to keep up with the leaders who are already seeing very tangible bottom line results from mobile.  Only those with the intellectual and resource bandwidth to consider alternatives will take the time to factor in what the herd will increasingly view as the more capital intensive and less measurable digital signage.

Where does this leave digital signage developers and digital signage network operators?  Simply put: Either dazed and confused or naive and unsuspecting.  But, this need not be the case.  Digital signage is actually in a tremendous position to facilitate the mobile experience.  In fact, mobile is very likely to be the “killer app” for digital signage.  And this is how digital signage developers and network operators need to start thinking from this point forward.

In the weeks that follow, I’ll be writing on the strategies and techniques that developers and operators can employ to take advantage of the mobile wave. 

I know what you’re likely thinking: “Why would a guy who works for a digital signage company like Symon be working to help the competition?”  The answer is really quite simple. As an industry, we won’t be competing with each other; we will be working to maintain our mutual relevance.

Think I’m wrong?   Read my blog ( Read my writings, look at the articles I’ve selected.  If that’s not enough, in the coming days I’ll be launching a Tweeter series called: “The 25 Reasons Digital Signage Networks Need to Embrace Mobile.”  Follow me on twitter at @steve_gurley to see why mobile can be either friend or foe to digital signage.

In the end though, we all have to share information.  The challenge we face is bigger than any single company.


3 Responses to “Money Flows Where The Herd Goes”

  1. Steve,

    I think you’re right.

    I see the “dazed and confused” look in another way. The digital signage industry needs to understand how to integrate with mobile. The two are not mutually exclusive anymore, and the money will flow in a stream through them. Complementary technologies enhance the experience and drive the herd.

    I’m certain that mobile is on the to-do list for everyone in 2011. That’s good. But I think there is a lot of unease. The digital signage industry seems to be slowly (but surely) calming — screens are in place, technology is pretty solid, and measurement and content are starting to own the day – the natural progression of things. But mobile is this huge new atom bomb that people see coming.

    I don’t necessarily see anyone running for the hills, but I do see some of the leaders jumping in with both digital feet – and yes, they will lead the herd.

    • Paul, first of all, sorry it took me so long to approve and post your comment. All the distractions from the Holidays.

      You’re right. Some are starting to pay attention. Those who learn to leverage mobile appropriately will win and win big. Those who ignore it will do so at their own peril. The game is changing and people are going to have to think differently in order to survive.

  2. good stuff guys. it’s difficult on a technical level as well as expensive to execute some of these ideas.

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