CES 2015: 5 key marketing takeaways

From brand attempts to make the “internet of things” a reality to how key partnerships will make this a possibility, Marketing Week takes a look at the key things marketers should take away from the Consumer Electronics Show 2015.

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Brands make it clear they want to be part of the IoT

The overarching theme dominating the show was the “internet of things” (IoT) concept, which is an all-encompassing term for making products in and out of the home internet connected. Samsung, LG, Blackberry and Sony were just a few of the brands looking to be associated with making the IoT a reality.

Samsung spearheaded the conversation with the keynote speech, which called for openness from a range of industries to help IoT succeed and pledged more than $100m in funding for developers and start-ups to kickstart the revolution. The brand launched a range of products – from washing machines, to refrigerators and TVs – which it predicts will all become IoT-enabled within 5 years.

Ben Wood, chief researcher at CSS insight says there is no doubt that the IoT is already present. CSS Insight research has shown that the average number of connected devices in European households continues to grow, with an estimated 9 devices per household including smartphones, tablets, TVs and games consoles.

However, there is still work to be done to make IoT a coherent initiative. Wood says: “There is an inability for major companies such as LG, Samsung and others to clearly define exactly what they mean by ‘the internet of things’.”

Brand collaboration is key to make IoT possible

The IoT is somewhat fragmented with a range of products and services promising to provide a more connected experience. In an effort to bring standardisation to the concept many brands at the event announced partnerships.

Samsung called for further collaboration to ensure IoT was possible, CEO Boo-Keun-Yoon said: “I’ve heard people say they want to create a single operating system for the ‘internet of things’, but these people only work on their own devices. We can deliver the benefits of the ‘internet of things’ only if all sensors can talk to each other.”

In a move towards building trust for brands, Netflix announced a recommendation program for consumers wishing to identify the Internet TVs that are most streaming friendly. It will badge selected TVs with its logo as a signifier from this spring and has suggested it will work with LG, Sony and Sharp.

Blackberry has also offered its services to a range of brands through its IoT platform and announced that its BBM messenger will be used for future Android Wear.

John Curran, managing director in Accenture’s communication, media and technology practice believes that by collaborating with each other, brands will be able to fine-tune and improve the level of excitement they build with customers. He adds: “The manifestation of the ‘internet of things’ will only come together, and realise its enormous potential, if collaborations lead to higher consumer trust in those brands.”

Smartphones are no longer the big draw

The number of smartphone launches was low compared with previous years, with few brands introducing a new phone. The most notable launch was LG’s G Flex 2, a smartphone with a curved screen.

This market has become highly competitive and many brands are not seeing the returns they once did. Wood says: “The commoditisation of mobile phones to a generic category of rectangular touchscreens that are offered with any screen-size, processor, camera specification of coloured casing is acute and its little wonder large manufacturers such as Samsung and Sony are suffering from an identity crisis as they try to stand out from the growing crowd of improving Chinese rivals.”

Lenovo is one of these Chinese brands, which launched two new phones at the event, the Lenovo P90 and the Lenovo Vibe X2 Pro.

Nonetheless, Forrester research shows that smartphone use is more important than ever as they forecast that there will be over 5.1 billion active smartphones by 2019. According to surveyed marketers in the research, between 25% and 50% of web traffic comes from mobile.

Brands released wearables, but few proved innovative

In a race to prove that they are firmly a part of the IoT, brands released a wide range of wearables from smartwatches, to health and fitness trackers and computer glasses. Few of these brands showed something that was drastically new from what was announced last year.

Wood says: “It feels like there has been little progress. Once again the show has delivered an avalanche of me-too products, mostly from China. Many of these feel as though they are still solutions looking for a problem.”

There has been an increased focus on the design of wearable devices with more fashionable products released by Guess, Oakley and Swarovski all partnering with tech brands to release smartwatches, sunglasses and wristbands.

The lack of innovation in design doesn’t mean there isn’t an opportunity for marketers, however. Ads on wearable devices could soon be a reality, with ad tech company TapSense readying an ad platform for Apple’s upcoming smart watch.

Tapsense’s platform will use iPhone GPS to deliver contextual local offers, like coupons from local retailers. TapSense believes its programmatic ad platform, which works by automatically deploying ads based on events and sets of rules to ensure ads are highly targeted and “hyper-local”, is a natural fit for the Apple watch.

Brands will watch with interest to see what opportunities this opens up and how engaged consumers are with these ads.

Car marques look to mobile

A host of car brands made announcements at the event with a big focus on connectivity and collaboration. Audi, Mercedes, Ford, BMW and Hyundai all had major presences at the event. They all believe technology is key to their future be that with driverless cars or the latest entertainment systems.

Brands seem to have chosen between Apple and Google platforms with Volkswagen using Android Auto and Mercedes, Volvo and Jaguar working with Apple CarPlay. Few are now working on their own systems as they realise the key to customer engagement is developing interfaces based on software they are already familiar with and can access through their smartphones.

It is not just in software that tech brands and car marques are hooking up. Audi and LG announced a car control system that uses a customised LG smartwatch, while BMW also announced that drivers will be able to control their vehicles with Samsung tablets in future.

Phil Abram, the chief infotainment officer of General Motors, speaking during the CES ‘How Mobile Will Fundamentally Change Our World’ keynote panel that the focus should not be on the technology but what it allows consumers to do and believes that new developments in connectivity are “freeing people through connecting technology”.

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