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The best of CES: Marketing ideas for brands

During a show where it seems that attendees increasingly don't give a %&*# about the products, will your brand provide an experience that is talked about once Vegas clears out in 2013?

The 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was made up of a series of contradictions. Written for brands, exhibitors, marketers and interested attendees, this overview gives Jack Morton's point of view on CES 2012.

Features include a profile of trends spotted at this year's show and tips for an effective approach to CES 2013.

The best of CES: Marketing ideas for brands

  3. OVERVIEW: CES 2012 Second, brands must pursue strategies that take into account — and leverage — four major lessons that clearly emerged from theThere certainly was no lack of people, exhibitors, media coverage show in 2012:or exhibit space. There was definitely a lack of taxis for attendees. 1. Focus In: Influence Is EverythingBut public opinion on broader questions relating to the 2. Stop Building Cities. Start Building Experiences.International Consumer Electronics Show is mixed. If you talk to 3. Collaborate After An Era of Silosanalysts and attendees, you’ll find yourself on a mental seesaw 4. Measure & Optimize To Show Valueabout CES, still left wondering, “Is it worth my brand’s time andresources to be there?” We’re having conversations with our clients about how they can derive value from the modern CES — the CES dominated by trendsIt’s a valid question. The answer as we at Jack Morton see it? First, that we expect will continue to proliferate to other major events asCES is only worth it if your brand is willing to toss out the formula well. This document is meant to provide an overview of our insightsthat has driven traditional exhibiting for the last 45 years. from the team members who attended the show, our history of building brand experiences at the show and the lessons we hope brands will take heed of for the 2013 International CES.
  4. CES IN FLUX:OUR POINT OF VIEWIn 2012, the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was made up of a seriesof contradictions. With over 153,000 attendees, the show broke its 45-year attendancerecord, while one of its largest exhibitors, Microsoft, made this year its last. There were over20,000 new products debuted at the show, but no product stood out as a game-changer.A record-breaking 3,100 plus exhibitors were present, but few succeeded in capturing theminds and hearts of attendees. Ultrabooks were touted as the megatrend, but analysts agree thatthere’s nothing new there. After all, the MacBook Air (essentially an ultrabook) premiered in 2008.The show has “consumer electronics” in its name, but increasingly, it’s notabout consumer electronics at all.Then again, isn’t that the path that some of the most successful institutions — event or otherwise —have followed? South by Southwest (SXSW) was once about music and now it’s about film, interactiveand much more. MTV was once about music videos on television and now it’s about Long Islanderspretending to be from New Jersey and fist-pumping. The TED Conference was once only aboutTechnology, Entertainment and Design and now it’s about ideas worth spreading.The bottom line is that CES (like many institutions that, yes, are worth brands’ time) is evolving. Thereviews of the 2012 show from the media, influencers and attendees are mixed. Some asked, “Is CESon its way out?” Others asked, “What am I going to tell my friends was the coolest gadget I saw?”But at Jack Morton, we’re asking “How do brands derive value from the next generation of CESthrough brand experience?” After all, interest in CES isn’t going anywhere. Media coverage was upmore than 33% for 2012 and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is already counting itscommitted exhibit space and a slew of new exhibitors in anticipation of January 8-11, 2013.Will your brand be ready to make the most of it? Ben Grossman Digital Strategist
  6. TREND #1:CURATION IS KINGThe CEA made it no secret that 2012 set a numerous records forCES, but that left many attendees feeling overwhelmed and lostin the 1.861 million net square feet of exhibit space. It’s a talltask for any attendee—industry expert or otherwise—to siftthrough the 20,000 new products that debuted at CES this year.Out of the confusion emerged a major trend that set the tone forpress coverage, social buzz and word-of-mouth stories before,during and after the show: curation is king.Using vehicles including live on-site events and the dispensationof awards, certain organizations were able to take a stab atpicking through the technologies and products being displayedat the show to surface the best of the best. Attendees appreciatedit and responded the concept of a pared down productshowcase that got them away from the exhibit floors and hoards.Here’s a review of just a few of the curation forces present at CES2012:LAST GADGET STANDINGBy far the most energetic event (party or otherwise) weexperienced at CES 2012, this event features a live head-to-headcompetition between 10 products (pre-selected via online vote)that give four-minute quick pitches to win over the live audience.Hosted by Jon Hein and Gary Dell’Abate of the Howard SternWrap Up Show, the competition is now in its 11th year. Thewinners this year were the Lytro camera and Swivl iPhoneswiveling docking station. Read up about them both—they’repretty cool.
  7. TREND #1:CURATION IS KING (CONTINUED)CES INNOVATION AWARDSThe CES Innovations Design and Engineering Awards are awardedby the CEA. Each year, the organization prompts consumertechnology manufacturers and developers to submit the productsthey’ll be featuring at CES to be judged by a panel of independentindustrial designers, engineers and members of the trade press.Honorees are announced in November, well in advance of theshow, but CES features several showcases of the results.LAUNCHFEST SHOWCASECatering to a new contingent of CES attendees, iHollywood Forum’sevent is now in its fifth year and includes a networking dinner,program and (of course) a party. This year, the stated theme wasLaunchFest Showcase, focusing the event on celebrating the launchof startups, new business strategies, new products, and newservices. The unstated theme? Schmooze, schmooze, schmooze.MASHBASH & PINTERESTMashable, the digital culture and technology-focused news site, hasexperimented with a couple different involvements with CES in thepast. The publisher tapped into hot new social curation site,Pinterest, to develop a “Best of CES” board: company also produced MashBash, which celebratedMashable Awards winners and trends at CES. Moving away fromits previous awards show-style event, this year Mashable went forpure party: 1OAK Nightclub was DJed by San Francisco-basedduo A Plus D.
  8. TREND #2:WANTED BY ATTENDEES:STORIESCES attendees widely come into the event with one expectation:they’ll leave with stories to tell. For journalists, it’s part of their job.Marketers need to report back on the latest trends. Enthusiastsneed to tell their friends what’s hot. But there have been quite afew attendees of the 2012 CES who left feeling a bit emptyhanded. Some even claimed that CES is on its way out.In the storytelling society we live in, brands at CES must thinkabout what experiences they’re creating and how they’ll be talkedabout—in the traditional media, through social media and evenface-to-face. This year, two exhibitors stood out very clearly forhaving done just that.GALAXY NOTE:Samsung may have bought massive billboards, wrappedcountless buses and placed tons of in-show signage to make thepoint, but it’s safe to say most attendees now know that theGalaxy Note is here!Live artists at points throughout the show (multiple exhibit spacesand event at live events) showed off the tablet/phone’sfunctionality by drawing caricatures of attendees, while theywaited, on the device itself. Participants certainly had enough timeto type more than one tweet, while they waited in a line longerthan some of the cab lines (and that’s saying something) to havetheir likeness drawn with a stylus. What better a way to triggersocial buzz and conversations back home?
  9. TREND #2:WANTED BY ATTENDEES:STORIES (CONTINUED)MICROVISION’S PICO PARTIES:Polishing up an idea that Microvision premiered at the 2011CES, its team walked around the exhibit floor and up to taxi linesto host Pico Parties. Using the company’s SHOWWX+ HDMI,representatives projected the contents of their iPhones up on wallsto provide an experiential brain-break from the CES hub-bub.From Lady Gaga videos to handheld games, attendees enjoyedthe experiences and said so publicly and are sure to bring theirexperiences with the mini laser-powered projectors.
  10. TREND #3:THE TRADESHOW FLOORIS BORINGIt’s a bold statement, but we’re willing to put it out there because,by and large, attendees agree. With the exception of a few trulycompelling experiences, the hoards of people attending CES2012 found the most exciting products, content and experiencesoff the floor.The contributing factors to that phenomenon are varied, butinclude the following facts of life at CES: 1. The exhibit floor is overwhelming. Too many products, people and exhibitors make attendees feel hopeless in their quest to conquer the show. 2. The abysmally low density of impressive brand experiences meant that on-floor attendees were hard pressed to find something that really captured their attention and engaged them. That’s a lot of walking with very little pay-off. Exhibitors in 2013 will have an opportunity to stand out in a big way by creating exhibits that function as rich brand experiences. 3. Curators provide lots of value (as previously discussed) and, often times, a lot of fun elsewhere by paring it down to the highlights.Away from the rest of the 153,000 attendees that descendedupon Vegas, we’ve identified a few of the trends in exhibitingwithout an exhibit.
  11. TREND #3:THE TRADESHOW FLOORIS BORING (CONTINUED)OFF-SITE MEETINGSIt’s not new, but it is increasingly prevalent. More and morebrands are choosing to host off-site meetings and events in suitesthat are beginning to act like mini-exhibits. Brother International,IBM and Intel took attendees to other destinations (many ofwhich are still, in fact, hosted and sanctioned by CEA).TRANSITNokia extended its “Amazing Everyday” slogan by installingmini-brand experiences at each of the Las Vegas Monorail stops,which are used heavily by attendees to get to the Las VegasConvention Center (LVCC) and between hotels. The presence,touting the Nokia Lumia, featured a new (hardly amazing, butyes entertaining) eye-catcher each day of the show, ranging frombreak dancers to free coffee. Nokia also supported its campaignwith billboards, in-show promotions and bus-based experiences.EVENTSAmazing parties have become a part of the heritage of CES, butnew side-conference series are now emerging and attractingaudiences away from the major Keynotes and exhibit floor.Lenovo once again hosted its ultraluxe influencer lounge andparty at Aquanox. Ad Age hosted technology and creativity-focused conference-style sessions at Venetian. Klipsch of VoxxInternational hosted a live, private Young The Giant concert atthe Hard Rock Café.
  12. TREND #4:GRAND MARSHALSAREN’T AT THE PARADEWhile covering the show prior to its breaking 45-year attendancerecords, the media couldn’t stop talking about the historic absenceof Apple and Microsoft’s announcement that this would be its finalyear. Certainly it’s a concerning issue for CEA. The fact of the matteris that one of the most valuable aspects of CES has been its ability tobring together manufacturers and buyers, but that distribution modelis dying with the advent of electronics and technology companiesthat sell directly to consumers (Amazon and Apple are masters of it).Meanwhile, Apple’s exclusive owned events have set a precedentfor technology companies’ abilities to leverage the 24/7/365 newscycle to their advantage. Microsoft has indicated this is the directionthey’ll move in, Amazon’s Kindle launched at an Apple-like launchevent and Apple itself has said it doesn’t see CES as a fit for thebrand.Creating an eerie tension, however, is the fact that these companiesare the grand marshals of the consumer electronics industry. A haloeffect permeates CES each year, with companies from around theworld appearing with gadgets that complement the iPhone, Kindleand Kinect. In fact, CES has already sold 95,000 square feet ofexhibit space in the 2013 iLounge Pavilion (within three hours of itbeing available), which is completely dedicated to iPhones, iPods,iPads and other Apple-related products. But, just like a paradewithout a grand marshal, CES somehow has ended up as a bigmass of people, trying to march forward with purpose, butfloundering in waiting for ultimate direction.
  13. TREND #5:TAKING THE “CE” OUTOF CESThough attendees may have missed some of the 20,000 new productsdebuting at CES, it was hard to miss the fact that there were a coupleof exhibitors that didn’t seem like they belonged. At Jack Morton, wethink this points to the future of CES… one that isn’t as focused onconsumer electronics. Why? The overwhelming sentiment ofconsumers today is that they don’t care about the specifications ofnew products. 3D has failed to gain traction, folks love theirsmartphones and the reality of a “fully connected me” or a “kitchensmarter than we are” is a long time off.People do care about what kind of lifestyle their devices enable.Increasingly, that lifestyle is tied to brands beyond manufacturers,which is why entertainment technology-focused companies made abig splash at the show this year.Facebook functionality was launched in thousands of devices.YouTube hosted a keynote to pitch the concept of online, streamingvideo channels with original content, promising proliferation ofchannels tantamount to that of phone apps. Google made asignificant announcement about a new feature called “Search, PlusYour World.”
  14. TREND #5:TAKING THE “CE” OUTOF CES (CONTINUED)So if you take the “CE” out of CES, you’re left with “S,” or “Show.”Which, in the end, makes quite a bit of sense. Showing people whattheir lifestyle looks like, with a technology layover, transcendeddevices, specifications and manufacturers in exhibits from CESsurprise exhibitors UnitedHealth and Lowes. Both had standoutexhibits that showed the type of brands and exhibitors who couldlead the next generation of the tradeshow:UNITEDHEALTHThis brand, known for its health insurance, combined somemeaningful curation of new health-focused technologies with anexhibit that showed off a healthier lifestyle. From an interactiveMotorola MotoActv fitness gaming system, to OptumizeMe, amobile-fitness-challenge mobile application, UnitedHealth hit a homerun in showing a company that truly gets the future of its consumers.LOWE’S“We’re on a journey from home-improvement retailer to home-improvement company,” said F. Lawrence Lobpries, director-consumermarketing for Lowe’s. The brand’s focus on creating an experiencethat showed consumers how technology can be used to seamlesslyimprove their home improvement projects impressed attendees,without seeming out of reach. Highlights included the online MyLowe’shome-improvement management tool, which includes purchasehistory, owner’s manuals, warranties and even paint colors. Anotherfavorite for weekend warriors was the mobile application, whichshares instant peer reviews, how-to videos and barcode scanning.
  15. TREND #6:CELEBRITIES CAN’TSAVE YOU PEOPLE AWAKE) (BUT THEY CAN KEEPJustin Timberlake, Justin Bieber, Snooki, Ludacris, 50 Cent,,Wayne Brady, LL Cool J, Jillian Michaels, Ryan Seacrest, Will Smith,Anya Ayoung-Chee, Kelly Clarkson and many more celebrities madeappearances at CES. What is now becoming a time-honored tradition atthe tradeshow might also be giving the brands that bring them false hope.If your products aren’t worthy of being remembered or talked about,plugging in a celebrity to attract attention has proven to be a major miss(and a waste of resources) in recent times. That’s not to say, however, thatthey won’t keep your audience awake.Sony was widely panned by analysts for having disappointing releasesover the past several years, but bringing Will Smith on stage to talk about“Men In Black 3” excited the crowd. But Sony’s keynote ended on a weirdnote as American Idol Kelly Clarkson sang “Mr. Know It All,” sendingawkwardly honest messages to the crowd after a lackluster showing (“Butya don’t know a thing at all…”). Ryan Seacrest tried to shake up theinfamously dry Microsoft Keynote, but Ballmer ended it on a sour note byscreaming “Windows, Windows, Windows!”Celebrity appearances that have impressed audiences in meaningfulways at CES include Lady Gaga (2010 and 2011) and Justin Timberlakein (2012). Lady Gaga’s appearance corresponded with her taking on therole of Creative Director at Polaroid, churning out a series of productscalled Grey Label. Justin Timberlake’s cameo with Panasonic tied into hislarger endorsement of (and sizable investment in) MySpace… his humorwas the only thing that had the crowd smiling in the face of an otherwisedry presentation of expected technology.
  16. 4 TAKE-HOMETIPS The Jack Morton team didn’t leave CES 2012 nearly as pessimistic as many of the attendees. Sure – we wore comfortable shoes, drank plenty of water and stayed away from convention center food. But we also see a very exciting opportunity for the experience brands that will define and drive the future of CES. Freeing a brand from its specifications in favor of creating memorable brand experiences is liberating. North America’s largest yearly trade show is waiting for a grand marshal (or a few!). Here are a few thought starters to help your brand lead in 2013.
  17. TIP #1:FOCUS IN: INFLUENCE ISEVERYTHINGOne of the greatest opportunities presented a CES every year isthe chance to get in front of highly influential consumers,analysts, media and influencers who are the tastemakers when itcomes consumer electronics. In fact, a minute 1.8 percent ofonline adults create 80 percent of peer influence impressionsabout consumer electronics, according to Forrester Research.Focus on creating meaningful brand experiences for the peoplewho influence the masses. Before you attend CES in 2013,assemble a list of key influencers you want to engage with duringthe show and develop a plan to do it.
  18. TIP #2:STOP BUILDING CITIES.START BUILDINGEXPERIENCES.Historically, some brands at CES have focused on building smallcities within the convention center—attempting to projectimportance and worthiness by the sheer number of squarefootage occupied by the brand. This year it became apparentthat doing that without a broader brand experience strategy inplace is a simple waste of money.Attendees are no longer on the floor looking for products ondisplay. They want a memorable experience related to the brandthat they can walk away with. Find ways to create newexperiences for consumers beyond your products core offering.Implement an experience you would be willing to stand in line forand that would make you think more of your brand
  19. TIP #3COLLABORATE AFTERAN ERA OF SILOSSome of the most effective brands at CES 2012 found ways tocross promote their core offerings with another brand.UnitedHealth delivered on its brand promise by featuringtechnology that might define the future of health.Mophie brought its cross-promotion with PRODUCT (RED) into itsbooth. IBM’s consulting horsepower and know-how was featuredby BodyMedia when showing off its new FIT activity monitoringsystem. Lowe’s showed how technology could improve even themost mundane of home improvement tasks. What partners areworth talking to about CES 2013 strategy?
  20. TIP #4:MEASURE & OPTIMIZETO SHOW VALUEWhat would happen if your band experience got smarter, betterand more effective every time it happened? What if what tochange tomorrow—or next year—in your brand’s events strategywas not a question, but a well-researched answer?Jack Morton believes that it’s nearly impossible to prove whetherCES is valuable to a company or not if it’s not being measured.Before CES 2013, put a measurement strategy into place so thatyour brand experience can be optimized in real-time and year-to-year, driving to accomplishing your business objectives.
  21. CES 2013 IS APPROACHING.WHO WILL YOU WORK WITH TO MAKE SUREPEOPLE DO GIVE A %&*# ABOUT YOURPRODUCTS AND BRAND?JACK MORTON WORLDWIDE is a global brand experience agency. We have a track record of working with some of themost notable consumer electronics and technology brands, including Nokia, Samsung and Ericsson, and of creating some of themost notable CES experiences, including designing the brand experience for NBC Universal when it was named the first-everOfficial Broadcast Partner.We create experiences that strengthen relationships between brands and the people who matter most to them–thereby helping ourclients become talked-about experience brands. Rated among the top marketing service agencies worldwide, we integrate live andonline experiences, digital and social media, and branded 3D environments that engage and inspire consumers, businesspartners and employees. Jack Morton has a staff of 500 employees in the US, Europe and Asia-Pacific that drive our idea-ledagency culture and is part of the Interpublic Group of Companies, Inc. (NYSE: IPG).More information is available online:Web site: