This recent project was a creative marketing campaign designed to peak interest for LiveTitles, the high-end Accessibility product designed for venues that I created.

A sale for the LiveTitles system could be a 6 figure installation job depending on the venue size. So I wanted to create a marketing experience proportionate to the value of the product itself.

How could we increase interest and get a lead excited about the product?

An easily disposable paper mailer, seemed like the way NOT to go. Cold emails are not a great strategy for a number of reasons. 

I like marketing to really stand out. Go above and beyond and have the prospect so excited, they immediately want to buy. That’s a goal I always strive for with any project. Creating excitement.

As a product designer, I wanted to SHOW the recipient how unique and special LiveTitles is.

But how could we demonstrate the power of the product, and get people excited in a personalized way? 

I had already constructed and designed Apps specifically for demo units for a wider rollout to vendors. 

For example:

“This portable demo unit along with this internal company App compatible with iOS and Android replicates a house audio microphone. So a sales person can bring the demo unit, hand the potential buyer the iPad controller device to let them experience control of the system first hand. Then they can use the phone App to speak anything that will be transcribed – on the fly, in real time creating a very powerful demonstration. Everything uses a phone’s hotspot for the demo, so no need for complicated setups on site during a sales call.”

How could we give a potential buyer a demonstration of this, without physically sending sales people all over the country? What’s something that could be sent for a potential client to view (or experience) that would give them a good idea of what to expect from the physical product?

Then it hit me. We can’t send them a full demo unit due to cost constraints, but what if I sent a miniature representation of it? 

Miniature models. 

With a small printed circuit board assembly we could replicate LiveTitles captioning on a miniature screen and demonstrate the functionality of the real system on a small scale. 

Initial Test Assembly

LiveTitles screens are installed usually on the back of a seat in an array of chairs.

Since this system is aimed at venues like performing art centers, theaters, convention centers, and the like, I immediately thought a theater chair would be the most iconic and immediately recognizable type of chair to demonstrate where the product can be installed. 

The next thing to determine was scale. How big should this chair be?

I worked backwards by first choosing a screen size. The size of the screen would determine the size of its enclosure, and the size of the model chair would follow.

The piece needed to be something that was small and portable and to scale, but large enough to be impactful.

Screens side by side

After doing the math and creating a miniature replica of the screen housing, the materials at this scale can only get so small for their intended purpose. The housings for both screens ended up being almost the same size. So I decided on the larger screen since it was a larger display and more visible. I’ll also took into account some battery life, comparing the larger and smaller displays but the delta between power consumption was surprisingly nominal and not worth considering as a major factor in determining which screen size to pick for the purposes of this project. 

An Arduino ended up being the perfect computer controller to drive this miniature screen. I experimented with 3 AAA batteries, but 3 AA batteries provided better battery life.

We’re going to use 3.3 volt logic, so we’ll have enough margin with the onboard regulator to run even if the batteries drain to ~60% percent over time.

The life of the batteries comes down to something called “milliamp hours”. Once we know the current draw of the system in “idle” or “sleep” mode, we can determine how long the batteries will last before the system “wakes up” but current initial tests shows no significant difference in power draw between the two different screen sizes.

At the same time,  I spent a lot of time trying to source miniature theater chair models, but then realized dollhouse furniture would be quite close to the scale I was looking for.

I was looking for dollhouse theater chairs. Well, they make lots of different kinds of dollhouse furniture. Even dollhouse electric chairs, but no theater chairs. So I knew we would have to go custom.

I can’t figure out what kind of dollhouse would want an electric chair…

Here’s what was designed. I enlisted the help of a very talented dollhouse furniture fabricator for these chairs.

Early sketch of the protective clear acrylic display case assembly

Arduino Pro Mini

Another interesting find, which I guess shouldn’t be so surprising, name brand batteries last considerably longer than budget batteries. I always believe you get what you pay for, but I expected batteries in 2019 to be close. However, the results weren’t even close. Even Amazon Basics batteries lasted just about 7 days while Energizer Max lasted 14. 

I could have increased the time that the screens run before the batteries expire, but adding another array of batteries increased the cost without what I considered substantial benefit. 

The initial impact happens when the box is opened. If the potential client doesn’t “get it” and connect with the marketing within 2 weeks, I didn’t think the extra battery life would make a difference.

But I didn’t want to waste battery life during shipping. Even though these were to be sent with next day delivery, if on the chance the parcel was to be left in a shipping and receiving area or not immediately opened by the recipient, I don’t want the battery draining. Having a dead screen will ruin the presentation.

How can we detect when the recipient opens the package? This is a question that has always fascinated me since I learned about tracking pixels in emails. How could this be applied to physical mail?

The piece will be shipped in an opaque box, right? Complete darkness in there.

We can assume the recipient will not open the package in total darkness, so if the inside of the box is dark, once the recipient opens it and hits the light sensor, the screen will turn on immediately and display the message.

So I used a photoresistor light sensor in line to turn on the device. It stays in sleep mode while in darkness, and once light hits it, stays on until the batteries die. Battery life should be approximately 3 weeks based on tests.

Circuit design

Also, using the Arduino allows us to simply plug the unit into a computer via a USB cable and change the the text that the screen displays. The message can be personalized for each recipient and venue!  

In some early testing of a final chair, users correctly identified the chair as a theater chair every time – a pleasant surprise. 
The final piece

Every single one of these models sent to venues got a return phone call immediately upon arrival.

If you would like me to design and build you some interactive, memorable, impactful, viral marketing materials that get noticed, get in touch!