Back in the day a shopkeeper might hire a barker to loudly tease the goods found inside a store. That changed with technology, with loudspeakers urging you to stop and look in. With today's technology, the practice of capturing a customer's attention may take a subtler turn.
After an initial test last year, the Gap is the rolling out "Whispering Windows" in its flagship stores across Europe to promote its denim via a new ad campaign with music at its core. So how do these windows grab our attention without distracting from the denim?
Whispering Windows comes from a company called FeONIC. They use glass-mounted surface transducers to turn windows into vibration speakers. With vibrations less than the width of a human hair, the noise is distributed evenly across a surface to provide pretty high-quality sound. The invisible speaker can last for years, and can be reprogramed with different advertising messages.
It's an interesting twist on a technology that was originally created by the U.S. Navy for sonar devices. The Navy developed a "smart" product that changed shape in a magnetic field, and the force makes the structures vibrate.
So from warfare to window displays, this subtle vibration speaker is capturing attention. It has been used by a variety of clients, such as a high-end U.K. department store called Selfridges for a Christmas display.
The latest work with Gap is one centered around music and "jookin" dance artist Lil' Buck. The store windows have six 46-inch LCD screens of the artist dancing, so the invisible speakers seem to work in conjunction with the view. What we don't know is whether, in addition to the music, other messages may be subtly hitting our ears urging us try on some jeans.
Does the technique really move people into stores rather than just being a non-obtrusive way to marry sound with window displays? FeONIC notes on the website BrandChannel:
"Independent research has shown engaging propositions delivered by a Whispering Window can lift sales by up to 50% when compared to a silent window."
Since the entire process is designed for us not to overtly notice the sound — or advertising messages — we may never know if the process really works (unless, for some reason, I'm compelled to walk into a sporting goods store without knowing why. Either that, or if Gap Europe shows record profits next year.