Ruth Mortimer: What CES means for marketers

If you’re walking the streets of Las Vegas this week, you’re as likely to bump into the CMO at McDonald’s as her equivalent at technology brands Sony or Samsung.

Marketers and agencies from non-technology businesses are taking over the town, and their attendance, involvement and money is slowly turning a show that was once about new gadgets into one about trends. Not just technology trends, but lifestyle and consumer behaviour trends.

Marketer attendance at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) between 2013 and 2014 rose by 9%, according to figures from the organisers of the show, with CMO attendance up 11%. Perhaps it’s not yet essential for marketers, but CES is fast becoming a fixture on the marketing calendar.

While marketing may have a natural inclination to discover the next big thing, just how business critical is CES? After all, only 49% of British adults have heard of cloud computing and 44% are aware of smartwatches (Ipsos MediaCT). And just 4% are using smart home technology, with only 6% owning a wearable device. Sure, it’s all very sexy, but is it worth the column inches?

We look at what marketers really need to know about new technologies here, looking at four big themes that are emerging this year: augmented intelligence, image recognition, connected convenience and mainstream wearables.

When you look at the most attention-grabbing zones of CES, such as drones or robotics, it is easy to miss that there are many more straightforward or mundane applications of new technology that can genuinely make great leaps forward for brands.

Barclaycard’s contactless payment stickers and chips don’t hold quite the same allure as an Amazon drone delivery service, but it is something that is likely to make a noticeable difference to consumer behaviour in the near future.

So does CES really matter for marketers? Not if you’re just there for the free drinks. But if you truly understand your consumers and want to change their lives, there are worse things you could do with your January than try to catch a glimpse of the future.

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