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By Lyle Bunn, BUNN Co.

digital signage

When Abraham Maslow defined a hierarchy of human needs in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation,” he described that humans seek primarily to have physiological needs such as food, water and shelter and health met, and then seek safety, followed by love and belonging. Esteem and self-actualization are pursued when other lower-level needs are met.


A hierarchy of needs exists for organizations also. In the corporate hierarchy of needs, corporate valuation is the highest level of need, followed by brand equity, a defendable competitive position, and the creation and monetization of assets, supported by productivity of people, places and processes. It happens that digital media serves all levels and is increasingly central to the contributions of the chief executive, operating, financial, marketing, information, facilities, human resources and technology officers.

The ability to change in response to market forces and to exploit new enabling tools and processes allows the enterprise to maximize its return on investment.

Valuation: The top tier of these needs is sustainable and increasing valuation. The worth of an enterprise is based on its revenue potential and assets versus its liabilities. Valuation is reflected in share price and other financial measurements arrived at through generally accepted accounting practices.

Brand equity: This refers to the value of a brand and is one of the most valuable assets of a company since brand equity can be increased and can increase the financial valuation of the owner of the brand. Elements of brand equity include market share, profit margins, consumer recognition of brand logos, tag lines, audio and visual elements, and consumer perception of brand attributes and value.

Brand equity can generate more money from products with that brand name than from products with a less well-known name, as consumers believe that a product with a well-known name is better than products with less well-known names.

Brand equity is created through investment in communications including market education and profile and appreciates through growth in market share, profit margins, prestige value and positive perspectives of the brand by consumers. Generally, these investments appreciate over time to deliver a return on marketing investment.

In the research literature, brand equity has been studied from two different perspectives: cognitive psychology and information economics. According to cognitive psychology, brand equity lies in consumer’s awareness of brand features and associations, which drive attribute perceptions. According to information economics, a strong brand name works as a credible signal of product quality for imperfectly informed buyers and generates price premiums as a form of return to branding investments. It has been empirically demonstrated that brand equity plays an important role in the determination of price structure and, in particular, firms are able to charge price premiums that derive from brand equity after controlling for observed product differentiation. Consumers’ knowledge about a brand also governs how manufacturers and advertisers market the brand.

Brand equity is reflected in consumer loyalty to the product/service, the firm, the employee (as brand representative) and a specific business location.

A defendable competitive position supports brand equity and corporate valuation. Strength and resilience embodied in the unique value of a product or service assure ongoing differentiation and strong market positioning. A weak position opens the brand to loss of market share and profit margins.

Creating and monetizing assets is “the business of business.” This could include the panting of goods that are harvested or assuring ongoing access to useful raw materials. It could include business locations, the development of staff or creation of cost-effective operating approaches.

On the basis that “information is power,” or, more accurately, “information is powerful,” data is an asset that is captured and monetized as it is aggregated and refined at its levels of abstraction including data, statistics, information, knowledge and wisdom.

Productivity/efficiency in outcome creation reflects the day-to-day, transaction-by-transaction imperative of operations and success that are concomitant (effected by and impacting upon) with higher-level attributes.

This essential lowest level of corporate need is where customer experience through brand engagement occurs, related to place, people and processes.

Places must merit being a destination with dwell times that suit the monetizing of assets such as product inventory or staff knowledge.
People, including staff and customers are productive in contributing to brand growth through instruction, direction, motivation toward required actions and support in decision-making and contribution.
Processes are efficient when they exploit information assets, leverage communications tools, relate to the target audience, relate to, and train and develop the target audience, enroll participation and manage engagement with the brand.

In retail, the longstanding three Ps of Product, Price and Promotion have evolved to be the three Ps of place, people and processes. Browsing and buying places that include bricks-and-mortar as well as online stores, along with store-within-a-store, order and delivery locations, agents and call centers must be efficient in brand positioning and transaction processing.

Staff members are the personification of the brand and must be able to promote product/service attributes as a reflection of the brand character.

At a recent conference focused on customer experience, executives agreed that processes are the most important aspect of operations and contributor to success. Waste or economies are built into how things get done.

In his 1986 paper titled “No Silver Bullet – Essence and Accidents of Software Engineering,” Turing Award-winner Fed Brooks noted, “significant improvements” result when organizations address what he called “essential complexity.”

This is defined as core operating approaches that have wider-ranging impact on the enterprise. Current-day examples include enterprise resource planning, electronic commerce and digital media for marketing.

As brands seek to better engage customers, patrons, shoppers, travelers, visitors, staff or students, digital signage as dynamic place-based media is proving its ability to deliver impact while reducing costs. This approach is being applied to marketing and communications needs that are application specific (such as product promotion, digital menu boards, staff information panels, etc.) but when coordination is brought to digital media projects, the business benefits are far greater. Other assets are leveraged through links to operating systems such as point of sale, inventory management and customer loyalty, and the message display or interactive system can provide insights that enable optimizing engagement for the greatest impact.

Ultimately, the goal of digital media investment is to have a positive impact on corporate valuation and brand equity. Digital signage, as a modern communications method has wide appeal and serves higher-order needs.

As a communications utility digital place-based media provides a highly efficient method of merchandising, branding and providing ambiance that makes places, people and processes more productive.

The opportunity cost of not using digital media is now greater than the cost of its use, and this opportunity cost applies up and down the corporate hierarchy of needs.