Business leaders at theme parks, before the Internet became a thing and mobile a part of our everyday social lives, didn’t have that many options to engage guests. Traditional pre-internet guest engagement tactics heavily relied on non-digital outdoor signage, phone calls from the analog landline network, and old timer paper mailers.
In 2023, executives at theme parks in the U.S. and beyond are still significantly dependent on static engagement marketing channels from the pre-internet era. According to the latest data from January 2023, digital advertising spend in the U.S. is expected to reach $297 Billion in 2023. This represents about 60% of the overall prediction that advertisers in the U.S. will spend $509 billion in 2023.
Elegant Outdoor Digital Signage at Theme Park
There is strong growth in digital advertising with the entertainment industry in 4th position in terms of digital ad spend growth in 2022.
Yet, the entertainment industry will only invest $14.9 Billion in digital advertising in 2023 and only a fraction of that in real-time, dynamic guest engagement channels such as outdoor digital signage, mobile apps or text messaging services. This chart indicates that only about 2.5% of total media ad spend will be invested in out-of-home digital signage advertising in 2023 in the U.S..
Is there an opportunity for park managers and leaders to transform guest engagement while streamlining their park operations, consolidating their costs and reducing their carbon footprint?
The pre-internet guest engagement channels at Theme Parks in 2023
Over 50 years ago, on October 1st 1971, Walt Disney World opened in Orlando after over four years of construction.
One of the original signs at Walt Disney World in Orlando
Non-digital business signs have been used at theme parks for decades for wayfinding, wait time information, promotion of concession stands and gift shops, and other park guest engagement purposes.
They come in different forms.
Pylon signs are freestanding signs that are typically tall and have multiple faces. They are often used at the entrance of a shopping center or mall to display the names and logos of the businesses located within.
Monument signs are similar to pylon signs in that they are freestanding, but they are typically shorter and have a more solid, substantial appearance. They are often used to mark the entrance of a building or community.
Post signs are signs that are mounted on a single post. They are often used to mark the entrance of a business, a parking lot, or a residential community.
Channel letters are three-dimensional letters that are typically illuminated and used to spell out a business or organization's name or initials. They are often used on the exterior of a building to make it easily visible from the street.
Dimensional letters are similar to channel letters, but they are not illuminated. They are typically made from metal, plastic, or foam and are used to spell out a business or organization's name or initials. They can be installed on the exterior of a building or on a monument sign.
Awnings are a type of canopy that is attached to the exterior of a building and provides shade and protection from the elements. They are often used to identify a business or to provide cover for outdoor seating.
Wayfinding signs are signs that provide information to help people navigate an area, such as a hospital, airport, or university campus. They often include directional arrows and information about the location of different buildings or points of interest.
Blade signs are signs that are mounted perpendicular to a building's facade and project out from it. They are often used to identify a business or to provide information about products or services offered inside.
Pros of non-digital business signs
Depending on the material and the quality of the production, durability is going to vary for each type of business sign’s material: wood signs, digitally printed banners on vinyl, outdoor painted plastic signs in PVC, metal signs.
High quality metal signs made from aluminum or steel can withstand harsh weather conditions for over a decade, other forms of outdoor business signs may only last up to two years depending on weather conditions.
Lots of suppliers
Another advantage of non-digital business signs is that there are a lot of local suppliers to source from. A local search on google should return a fair number of suppliers in your area.
In addition to your local suppliers, you can use online services such as vistaprint that will be able to provide you with business signs that ship directly to you under a reasonable amount of time.
Immune to power outages
There is no power supply to set up. No screens by definition. Therefore, in case of a power outage, hoping the weather is not too extreme at that time, your guest should still be able to read your business signs.
This is a point that we partly covered in our durability section above. The stronger the material that you select to build your business signs, especially aluminum or steel, the more resistant to harsh weather conditions they will be.
Cons of non-digital business signs
Park guest messaging is static
Non-digital business signs, such as those made of wood or metal, are static in nature. Once they are created and installed, the messaging cannot be easily changed. This is a major disadvantage for businesses such as theme parks, where the information and promotions being advertised may change frequently.
For example, a park may want to promote a new ride or special event, but with a non-digital sign, the park would have to physically remove and replace the sign, a costly and time-consuming process.
Time consuming to create
The process of creating non-digital signs can be quite time-consuming.
The design and production of the sign must be done by hand, which can take days or even weeks. This is especially true for larger signs or those that have intricate designs.
In contrast, digital signs can be created and deployed much faster and with more ease.
Resource intensive to deploy
The deployment of non-digital signs is also resource intensive.
The signs must be physically transported to the location where they will be installed. This can be difficult and time-consuming, especially for larger signs or those that need to be installed in hard-to-reach areas.
Unlike non-digital signs, digital signs can be easily deployed remotely, reducing the need for transportation and installation costs.
Direct impact on carbon footprint
The production and deployment of non-digital signs also has a direct impact on the environment. The materials used to create the signs, such as wood and metal, can be resource-intensive and can contribute to a larger carbon footprint.
Additionally, the transportation and installation of non-digital signs also contribute to emissions and pollution.
On the other hand, digital signs are more energy-efficient and have a smaller carbon footprint overall.
Not optimal to test and increase guest engagement
Non-digital signs are not optimal for increasing guest engagement or testing messaging in real-time. With a non-digital sign, the messaging cannot be easily changed, making it difficult to test different messages or promotions.
In contrast, digital signs allow for real-time updates, making it easy to test different messages and see which ones resonate best with guests by measuring the outcome of your call-to-action.
Costly on your annual marketing budget
Non-digital signs can be costly on an annual marketing budget.
The cost of materials, transportation, and installation can add up quickly, especially for larger signs or those that need to be replaced frequently. Additionally, the time and resources required to create and install non-digital signs can also be costly.
Digital signs are more cost-effective in the long run, as they require less maintenance and can be updated easily, reducing the need for frequent replacements.
Example of theme park outdoor digital signage ROI transformation (before you build your park-tailored ROI with our new calculator tool available to you today)
According to HomeAdvisor, traditional business signs cost $463 on average. The number of characters you use, the size, the material of the signage are directly going to influence the price. It typically ranges between $161 and $831 per sign.
Let’s walk in the shoes of the marketing business leaders at theme parks across the U.S. for a minute. Let’s assume that the average zoo, museum, or attraction park needs to display guest engagement messaging at 10 different locations.
At each location, let’s evaluate the number of different guest engagement messages to be displayed every year. There are four seasons with opportunities to engage park guests in a relevant way for each season, plus special promotions to help with sales from merchandising in every season. We can reasonably assume five core marketing campaigns per year.
For each campaign, we can confidently assume that the marketing leaders at the theme park will want to use or test five different messages or variations of creative art.
Therefore, the total number of non-digital signs to meet the marketing needs for the organization is going to be for the year of 10 x 5 x 5 = 250 business signs per year.
At $463 per unit on average as we’ve touched on it above at the beginning of this example, that’s a total of $ 115,750 per year.
And that’s for the business signage cost alone.
This sheet summarizes this example and shows you what it would take to transform your guest engagement with outdoor digital signage instead.
Find out what is your park-specific opportunity to increase your ROI with outdoor digital signage in 2023.
Try out our new theme park ROI calculator just for you:
Outdoor digital signage in 2023
As opposed to indoor digital signage, outdoor digital signage provides business leaders at theme parks and attraction parks anywhere in the U.S. and beyond with a new growth opportunity to engage park guests at the most relevant points of the park experience.
But first we recommend that business leaders at theme parks acquire a good understanding of the types of outdoor digital signage that are available to them to drive the best business outcomes.
LED Outdoor Digital Signage
LED outdoor digital signage is one of the most popular types of outdoor digital signage. LED signs use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to create bright, vibrant images that are visible even in direct sunlight.
They are energy-efficient and have a long lifespan, making them a cost-effective option for businesses.
An example of an LED outdoor digital sign is a billboard display located on a busy highway. This type of sign is perfect for businesses that want to reach a large audience with their advertising message.
OLED Outdoor Digital Signage
OLED outdoor digital signage is a newer technology that uses organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) to create images. OLED signs offer higher contrast and deeper blacks than LED signs, making them ideal for displaying high-quality video and images.
They are also more flexible and lightweight, making them easier to install in a variety of locations.
An example of an OLED outdoor digital sign is a digital menu board located in a food court. OLED technology allows for more detailed and vibrant images of food items which can help to increase customer's appetite.
QLED Outdoor Digital Signage
QLED outdoor digital signage is a newer technology that uses quantum dot light-emitting diodes (QLEDs) to create images. QLEDs are similar to OLEDs in that they offer high-quality image and color reproduction, but they are more durable and have a longer lifespan.
An example of a QLED outdoor digital sign is a digital billboard located in a sports stadium. QLEDs can withstand extreme weather conditions and are perfect for displaying high-quality video and images in outdoor environments.
LCD Outdoor Digital Signage
LCD outdoor digital signage uses liquid crystal display (LCD) technology to create images. LCD signs are widely used in outdoor digital signage because they are relatively inexpensive and easy to install.
They are also energy-efficient and have a long lifespan.
An example of an LCD outdoor digital sign is a digital menu board located in a restaurant at your favorite theme park. LCD technology is perfect for displaying text and images in an easy-to-read format.
ePaper Outdoor Digital Signage
ePaper outdoor digital signage uses electronic paper (ePaper) technology to create images.
ePaper signs are designed to mimic the look and feel of traditional paper signs, making them perfect for businesses that want to maintain a traditional aesthetic. They are also energy-efficient and have a long lifespan.
An example of an ePaper outdoor digital sign is a digital menu board located in a coffee shop. ePaper technology allows for a more traditional, paper-like appearance which fits well with the shop's overall aesthetic.
Projection Outdoor Digital Signage
Projection outdoor digital signage uses projectors to display images on a screen or other surface. Projection signs are ideal for businesses that want to create large, high-quality images that can be seen from a distance.
They are also easy to install and maintain. An example of a projection outdoor digital sign is a digital movie billboard located in a shopping mall. Projection technology allows for large and high-quality images that are perfect for advertising movies.
Other types of Outdoor Digital Signage
There are many other types of outdoor digital signage available, including interactive digital signs, touch screen digital signs, and holographic displays.
Interactive digital signs allow guests to interact with the sign using touch, voice, or gesture controls.
Touch screen digital signs allow guests to interact with the sign using touch controls, while holographic displays use special technology to create a three-dimensional image that appears to float in mid-air.
An example of another type of outdoor digital sign is a digital kiosk located in a theme park.
This type of digital sign can be used for a variety of purposes, such as wayfinding, park information, and ticketing. It can also be interactive, allowing guests to purchase tickets and plan their day using the touch screen interface. This type of sign is perfect for theme parks because it allows guests to easily access the information they need, while also providing a convenient and easy-to-use interface.
TLDR on the different types of outdoor digital signage
In conclusion, there are many different types of outdoor digital signage available, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
LED outdoor digital signage is a popular choice for its bright, vibrant images and energy-efficiency.
OLED outdoor digital signage offers high-quality image and color reproduction, while QLED outdoor digital signage is more durable and has a longer lifespan.
LCD outdoor digital signage is relatively inexpensive and easy to install, while ePaper outdoor digital signage mimics the look and feel of traditional paper signs.
Projection outdoor digital signage creates large, high-quality images that can be seen from a distance, while other types of outdoor digital signage include interactive digital signs, touch screen digital signs, and holographic displays.
Business leaders at theme parks should consider the specific needs of their audience and location when choosing a type of outdoor digital signage.
Cons of Outdoor Digital Signage
High initial cost
The initial cost of purchasing and installing digital signage can be quite high, especially for larger or more advanced systems.
Digital signage requires ongoing maintenance to ensure that the hardware and software are functioning properly. This can be costly and time-consuming.
Digital signage requires a constant power source, which can add to the overall cost of running the system.
Digital signage can be subject to technical difficulties, such as hardware failure or software bugs. This can disrupt the display and require repairs.
Digital signage has a limited lifespan, and the hardware and software may need to be replaced or upgraded over time.
Digital signage is connected to the internet, which leaves it vulnerable to cyber attacks. This can put the entire system at risk of data breaches and other cyber-related issues.
Digital signage may be vulnerable to interference from other electronic devices, such as cell phones or Wi-Fi routers. This can disrupt the display and reduce visibility.
Pros of Outdoor Digital Signage
Park guest messaging is dynamic
Outdoor digital signs allow for dynamic messaging, which means the information and promotions being advertised can be easily changed. This is a major advantage for businesses such as theme parks, where the information and promotions may change frequently.
For example, a park can promote a new ride or special event and update the message in real time, without the need for costly and time-consuming physical sign replacements.
Easy and fast to create
The process of creating outdoor digital signs is easy and fast.
The design and production of the sign can be done remotely, which can take only a few minutes. This is especially true for larger signs or those that have intricate designs.
In contrast, non-digital signs can be time-consuming to create and install.
Easy and resource-efficient to deploy
The deployment of outdoor digital signs is also easy and resource-efficient. The signs can be easily deployed remotely, reducing the need for transportation and installation costs.
This makes it easy to install the signs in a variety of locations.
On the other hand, non-digital signs are difficult and time-consuming to transport and install.
Low environmental impact
Outdoor digital signs have a low environmental impact.
The materials used to create the signs are not resource-intensive and do not contribute to a larger carbon footprint.
Additionally, the transportation and installation of digital signs also have a low environmental impact.
It’s different with non-digital signs that have a higher environmental impact due to the materials used and the transportation and installation process.
Optimal to increase guest engagement/test messaging in real-time
Outdoor digital signs are optimal for increasing guest engagement or testing messaging in real-time. With digital signs, the messaging can be easily changed, making it easy to test different messages or promotions.
This is not possible with non-digital signs. They are not optimal for this purpose as the messages cannot be easily changed.
Cost-effective on your annual marketing budget
Outdoor digital signs are cost-effective on an annual marketing budget.
The cost of materials, transportation, and installation is low, and the signs require less maintenance and can be updated easily, reducing the need for frequent replacements.
The cost analysis is not the same with non-digital signs. They can be costly on an annual marketing budget due to the cost of materials, transportation, and installation, and the need for frequent replacements.
In conclusion, non-digital business signs may have been the norm in the past, but they are now becoming less relevant as digital signs are becoming more popular. Digital signs are more efficient, cost-effective, and have a smaller environmental impact than non-digital signs.
Therefore, businesses should consider investing in digital signs to increase guest engagement and improve their overall marketing budget effectiveness and ROI.
For a detailed evaluation and recommendation on how outdoor digital signage can transform your theme park in 2023, contact us by filling out the form below.
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