The (Dairy) Queen of Digital Signage: An interview with Janna Rider

January 7, 2015Stephanie Gutnik

First and foremost, a confession. As an ice cream lover, writing about anything related to the Dairy Queen® brand brings about excitement and an excuse to order an afternoon Blizzard® Treat not once, but twice this week. As such, I want to thank Janna Rider, Director of Digital Merchandising at International Dairy Queen, Inc. (IDQ), for kicking off the 2015 Leading Ladies series on a cool, sweet, you get the idea- note.

Upon graduating from Appalachian State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design, Janna became a Fabrication Artist for a company building national museum exhibits. There, she created life-size dinosaurs, painted fiberglass horses and soon began designing the exhibits themselves. Janna then moved to a sculpting studio to build prototypes for the likes of Disney, Warner Brothers and Rainforest Café.

In 1998, Janna put her degree and experience to good use by moving to the Dairy Queen visual merchandising department and overseeing all non-architectural store elements personifying the DQ Grill and Chill® concept and providing visual merchandising support for the Dairy Queen system in the U.S. and Canada. Twelve years later, Janna was promoted to Director of Digital Merchandising as franchisees started to install exterior LEDs and request content. Today, the Dairy Queen system supplies three vendors with promotional content that must be produced in 80 file types, a process generating around 4,000 images a quarter.

With the advent of digital menu boards, the Dairy Queen system spearheaded the static to digital conversion to avoid multiple permutations as required by exterior signage. Janna’s team attended Digital Signage Expo, completed DSCE training, read and researched as much as possible and finally selected a software provider – all within the span of a year.

“When we entered the digital signage arena four years ago, we found people were tight-lipped, especially in the QSR vertical. Perhaps it was because everyone was still experimenting and tricks of the trade had yet to be established,” said Janna. “Since that time, the industry has started to embraced the fact that if we share information, everyone will gain. We have become more realistic about what can be accomplished with digital signage.”

Setting realistic objectives is crucial when adding digital signage to a marketing mix. Janna is quick to point out that in-store digital signage does not drive additional traffic like exterior LEDs. Instead, it should be used to maximize a visit, enhance the customer experience and perhaps gain additional purchases. “Franchisees are happy with the results and believe digital menu boards are helping them – so we feel like we’ve done a good job.”

When it comes to overcoming obstacles, Janna shared that her biggest challenge in deploying the network was the process of sifting through copious amounts of data. Once network requirements were decided upon, determining whether the various vendors could deliver was even more difficult. Janna’s position on the Digital Signage Federation’s Board of Directors speaks to this, supporting the organization’s invaluable sources of information, networking and advice for newcomers to the industry and well-established companies alike.

“Once you get through the initial investment, digital signage is so simple for the end user, notably in the franchise situation. Content can be so compelling, and with a strong network, so nimble and forgiving to distribute. Not only do we support six to eight monthly promotions that differ across four countries and 48 menu types, we can use our digital signage for special R&D testing, allowing us to push content out within a short timeframe and change it with ease.”

Considering the Dairy Queen system must fit three platforms (food, treats, and Orange Julius®) on its menu boards, the more ease provided by digital signage, the better. Speaking of frozen treats…

About Janna

Since 2010 Janna Rider has been managing American Dairy Queen Corporation’s foray into the digital menu board arena. During the past four years, she has directed the request for information (RFI), request for proposal (RFP) and implementation of the digital signage network. The DQ® digital signage network consists of approximately 525 screens in 400 locations. Janna along with her team manageboth single-feature panels and full digital menu boards across multiple concepts in five countries. Her team also manages content production for 500 exterior digital reader boards in the US and Canada. The program houses 24,000 images and coordinates about 4,000 images quarterly to support the DQ® marketing calendar in all the installed files sizes and formats. Not only is Janna the director of digital merchandising for American Dairy Queen Corporation, she is also responsible for brand and visual merchandising. She has held various visual and brand merchandising and prototype store development roles in her 16 years with the DQ system. Rider holds a BFA in graphic design from Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. She has been involved in private and retail space design and implementation for 20 years.