brand, tech and place

There is a growing opportunity for design firms that fuse marketing and brand experience, systems technology/integration, and architectural design to develop location-based digital experiences.

Put these together and it might look like this:

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Such an integrated agency would be very efficient at developing next-generation “branded” experiences that will be key in the post-Amazon retail world.  Gathering topic experts in one office would reduce the costs of developing and testing these digitally-interactive, tangible experiences.  The agency would have the talent to quickly storyboard, design, mockup and stage full-scale prototypes in-house, before ever stepping foot onto a construction site.

There are few companies that truly integrates all three areas – brand, tech & place.  There are architectural/interiors firms that get into experiential brand design – a good example is UXUS in Amsterdam.  There are systems integrators that have moved more towards holistic design and solutions – an example is TEECOM from San Francisco.  Signage suppliers are creating ever more advanced systems – like RMG Networks out of Dallas.  Then there are the usual specialist suppliers – media creation, app/software developers, lighting consultants, A/V consultants, etc.  But there is clearly a missing synergy and efficiency that might be gained from having all three areas “under one roof.”  One example that is close is Dan Pearlman from Berlin.

I came to this conclusion at the recent 2018 Integrated Systems Europe show in Amsterdam.  I’ve written previously about the show – I find it a fascinating view into the future of architectural lighting and interactive media systems. The digital signage technology on display is most impressive and certainly makes the lighting industry look like a timid antiques shop.  The show makes very tangible three tech trends which are combining to turbo-charge the use of digital media in architectural scale applications:

  • The amazing progress with direct-view architectural-scale LED screens (and even large-size LCD screens)
  • Cloud-based media distribution systems that seamlessly handle global distribution of content, apps, interfaces, etc.
  • Sophisticated vision-based AI systems that can anonymously gauge basic guest profiles and manage both passive or active guest interactivity

The level of sophistication in these offerings is amazing, plus the technology costs keep rapidly dropping.  Signage and media systems are clearly the future for creating innovative customer experiences.  But the fact remains that exorbitant overall project costs make it very difficult for retailers, hospitality operators or consumer brands to really embrace these new technologies.

Construction sites are the most expensive place to attempt R+D.  Retailers and brands need a partner that can help them create innovative guest experiences without requiring a dozen different consultants, the costly project-coordination typical of architectural A/V system design and installation, and contractors salivating over even the smallest change-order.

Such an integrated firm might ultimately be a highly attractive acquisition for the big media conglomerates like WPP or Publicis.

Some small startups like Sosolimited or UNSense are heading in such an integrated direction – it will be interesting to see how successful they are.