I can hear the screams now from those who hate Walmart, that they’ll soon be experiencing something akin to the movie “Minority Report,” where you can’t escape seeing a video screen in every nook and cranny of a public place pushing a particular product. Yes, leave it up to Walmart to be the first store in the nation to use a new process called a Smart Network where video screens are set up all over the store and specialized videos promoting a certain product or service at the store are pumped in through a networked system. This particular content would be different depending on the need of the store. Or, in other words, it’s subliminal advertising that’s right in front of your nose.
In case you’re hoping this kind of thing will stay endemic to Walmart, think again.
It’s a new process that a lot of stores are talking about as the next big thing and planning to implement. Of course, having a monitor sitting around promoting a product in a store isn’t all that new of a concept. We’ve all seen special sections in department stores already years ago that featured a little TV showcasing a particular product that most people didn’t pay any attention to. Perhaps the reason for that was because those videos played like an infomercial rather than making it personalized. It was no different than having a TV on in the electronics section.
The only difference from that earlier era of video promotion to the one emerging now is that you’d generally only see one video in one special section of a department store back then. Now, Walmart plans to have these monitors set up in every aisle so you encounter them everywhere you go in the store. Consider it the blatant salesman that you didn’t ask for intruding into your brain so you can’t think for yourself what you want to buy. In that above-mentioned “Minority Report” universe, you almost have to run for cover just to get any peace.
Well, Walmart looks at all this as being something that will help us all shop more intelligently.
That’s why they call it the aptly-titled Smart Network because, you know, we’re apparently all a little too dumb to shop for ourselves. Not to be sarcastic about it, but this is really about making a sale through more insidious methods rather than supposedly helping people to make smarter choices. If people aren’t shopping smartly at Walmart, then they should start going to Target before they start implementing the same video system.
The reason for this being implemented is because TV and newspaper sales aren’t making the inroads they used to.
So now products have had to team with major stores to find other ways to market their products. Who better than Walmart that already makes multi-millions per year and seemingly has the magic touch to snowball any innovation they try? Sure, it’s a brilliant idea if you work in the field of advertising or marketing. For the average consumer, they may feel as manipulated by this as they did with previous methods of advertising.
That may be one explanation in why TV and newspaper advertising dissipated in effectiveness lately. People have learned the techniques of advertising and can see right through the sometimes masterful ways to sell or market a product. Enough people still get suckered into buying a product just based on the more effective marketing technique of Memetics. That’s why more insidious methods to getting the word out about products are studied so carefully by corporations and used more often. But when advertising becomes overly obvious, people generally get turned off by it.
What techniques this new video-based advertising in Walmart will employ is a bit vague at the moment.
I’ll have to check it out myself and do a follow-up piece on how crafty they’ll make it. If it’s anything like “Minority Report” predicted, it could be a nightmare walking the aisles of our favorite stores in the future. Having a talking head or other customized image pop up on a monitor next to you while you banter around in your head which product you want to buy may just craftily guide us to buying one particular product (perhaps the more expensive one) over another to fit the needs of the store.
It’s all quite a fascinating concept for sure, yet one that may repel rather than attract. To make it eerier, this networked system will take in real-time analysis of what people are buying at the cash registers to gather information on whether the video content worked or not. If it doesn’t, it can be tweaked to make it work better. So expect to see those monitors getting as personal as can be achieved without the system calling out your name and knowing all your family secrets.
Could this pave the way to “Minority Report’s” vision of video advertising being everywhere we train our eyes?
Yeah, we see advertising on other products all the time, but not video advertising. If LCD screens get to the sophistication level they are in China right now (play back the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony to see what I mean), we could be bothered by a video display pushing another product on your box of cereal right in your own home and intercepting your life 24/7.
We’ll assume Walmart doesn’t have that on their agenda. Nonetheless, the world of marketing continues to evolve to more sophisticated levels as does everything else…