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Make it POP

In an Age of Ego-Casting, Point of Purchase is More Relevant than Ever

by Thomas Franklin

Part 1 of a 4-part exclusive online series

With the rapid ascent of e-commerce and the likes of Google and Yahoo! swallowing ad dollars like a starved animal, one can be forgiven for wondering if the days of plain old, printed point-of-purchase displays were numbered. But it’s a funny thing about technology—while it’s undoubtedly true that the Internet looms larger in marketers minds, some of the same technologies are forcing them to key in on the point-of-purchase.

Thanks to digital video recorders, satellite radio, pod casting, news aggregators, and other filtering technology, consumers have unprecedented control over what they see, hear, and read, and consequently, who can market to them. This phenomena, dubbed ego-casting by Christine Rosen of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, has empowered consumers to play hard to get and put the onus on advertisers to reach them in innovative and creative ways. Like when they leave their house.

Enter POP
Point-of-purchase displays are on the front lines of capitalism. Effective POP can sway purchasing decisions at that crucial moment when a consumer is reaching for his or her cash.

"It’s a very high-impact form of advertising," says Riley McNulty, research manager, IDC. "You’re influencing a purchasing decision at the optimal time in a very cost-effective manor."

"There’s a lot of disruptive innovation impacting other forms of marketing and so POP has a big influence over purchasing decisions," adds Tim Green, research director, InfoTrends.

There are as many flavors of POP as there are products to be hawked and retailers to hawk them. Eye-catching, digitally printed graphics can appear as posters, on the shelf, as a stand-alone kiosk or aisle end-caps, they can dangle from the ceiling, or be stuck on a window or floor. While point-of-purchase was the main stay of offset and screen printers, the market is shifting over to digital technologies, states Patti Williams, consulting partner, I.T. Strategies.

For digital printers, there is an opportunity for both short runs—prototypes ordered by agencies for test marketing concepts before a full blown roll-out—and volume orders.

Traditional displays are printed on cardboard and other rigid substrates, or pressure-sensitive adhesives that are affixed to boards to create standees on high quality poster paper or matte—think of the cardboard model standing over a pallet of beer cases. Often displays are integrated with the packaging or are the packaging.

Digital technologies have also expanded marketing capabilities and blurred the neat distinctions between décor and advertising, Williams says. "You could print a wall paper merchandizing various products. Now is that POP or is that just a decoration?" To Williams, it’s more of a hybrid, which she dubs deco-advertising, where design elements become stealth marketers.

Digital printing technologies are looming larger in the POP market because of their ability to produce short runs. Marketers are increasingly personalizing their POP campaigns, targeting specific regions or stores with merchandizing designed to appeal to targeted demographics. Capitalizing on this regionalization, analysts say, will be crucial for success as POP evolves in an increasingly fractious ad market.

Look for a full feature article on POP Signage in the January 2007 issue of Digital Output.

Dec2006, Digital Output

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