Personal Writ Large: App And Its Users Power Agency Signage

Talk about a branded app. This is closer to a bona fide branding app. Nashville-based digital agency Paramore adorned their new city digs with a large LED building sign for all the city to see. But they gave the usual signage a twist by issuing a mobile app that allows anyone to change the color of the sign logo.

It isn't a big thing. The name of the company stays white, and the end logo changes color. But the concept is pretty cool and certainly could be flipped into a number of engaging promotional interactions.

The design allows anyone, anywhere to issue a color command to the sign. According to the company, they developed an API that does things like put commands in queue and compare upcoming commands to the ones in line to avoid duplication. It also delivers back-end analytics about how often colors are chosen and the number of times the sign changes. The app is clean and elegant. You tap the color, and it sends the command in and then turns the outlines of the app that color.

The branding piece of this is to display the company’s acumen in design and technical prowess. That it does -- along with underscoring their technical imagination. In fact, the concept came from a convention the company used with clients, in which they used different colors for their “P” insignia on marketing plans to match the client.   

The one obvious thing missing here is user feedback. You get no confirmation that the command was used. The ideal implementation of this on the app side would be to have a permanent cam set on the sign broadcast to the app so users could see their impact on the sign in real-time. The company tells me that it already thought of that and has to find another building nearby in Nashville for setting up a cam.

And of course, the process invites marketers to play with this interaction of people and signage of all sorts. Being able to change elements or just see your own impact on a piece of public signage gives a sense of empowerment and cooperating with a brand. Paramore says, “we are in discussions with several clients on how to implement this. Possibilities include an installation in a museum, lighting physical structures in some of the cities we work with and signage for attractions.  We also plan to continue to use it thematically in support of holidays, causes (i.e., Breast Cancer awareness month -- only shades of pink) live national/international and local events.”

This sort of one-to-many aspect of mobile has been with us all along, of course. The earliest text-to-screen applications in arenas and even at clubs had this element of turning the personal aspects of mobile into a broadcast element. As company founder Hannah Paramore says: “Probably the coolest thing about the sign is that it allows people to put their personal stamp on the skyline of Nashville, from choosing your favorite color or supporting your favorite cause. It combines a digital interaction, on the most personal of devices (your iPhone) with a physical change on a 26-foot skyline sign. That's big.”

On some level it relates to the complex relationship mobility has to intimacy and broader communications. Apps or Bluetooth LTE can both be easy routes to personalizing the most impersonal marketing of all -- the public sign. Even more deeply, I think it may expose a bit about the ways in which the most intimate media device yet invented can also be a very public tool where individuals put imprints on shared space. It is not unlike social media -- personal statements writ large. I am sure there is a doctoral thesis to be written on this -- the strange intersection of personal and public that is possible in mobile devices.


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