What marketers should take away from CES 2016

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was back in Las Vegas and bigger than ever this month. Some 200,000 attendees descended on the 2.5 million square feet of trade show space to find out about the latest tech innovations. For those marketers that weren’t there, here are the key takeaways.

There is no ‘next big thing’

The main hardware trends at CES this year will sound very familiar to anyone that follows the tech scene: the talk was of virtual reality, automated cars and the internet of things – all topics that commentators have been talking about for at least a year, if not longer.

ces vr

However for any of them to really take off and be the ‘next big thing’ they need to overcome numerous barriers to entry. Oculus Rift, Sony and HTC might all bringing out virtual reality devices but according to research by Nvidia just 1% of devices sold globally are actually able to run VR content meaning it remains out of reach for the average consumer.

With automated cars a cultural shift is required. A study by uSwitch found that half of Brits would refuse to ride in a driverless car and that people are growing increasingly concerned by the technology.

Even smartwatches and wearable fitness devices are yet to convince most people of their use. A survey by Accenture of 28,000 consumers across 28 countries found that for nearly half (47%) of respondents, security concerns and privacy risks are still a barrier to buying.

David Walsh, chief business officer at media agency Mindshare, agrees: “This year at CES it’s all about ‘smarter’ everything from wearable tech to cars. But if these connected products are to be truly accepted by consumers, the value-added benefits need to be clear. If this value is insufficiently compelling, connected products won’t be so much rejected as ignored.”

CES is the perfect place to find inspiration and pursue new business ideas. But marketers need to be clear why they are attending and make sure they don’t get caught up in the hype and instead focus on the tech where there is real business opportunity.

Tech is the gateway to the consumer

An increasing number of non-tech brands were at CES. Take L’Oreal, which used the event to launch its first wearable device – an ultra-violet light monitor called ‘My UV Patch’ that monitors the sun’s rays hitting a user’s skin and notifies them via an app on their smartphone when they should be wearing sunscreen.

Sports brand New Balance also used CES to announce a new division dedicated to “connecting consumers with technology that can enhance their athletic performance”. The New Balance Digital Sport business will team up with the likes of Intel and Google to launch wearable tech and “new digital experiences”, starting with a smartwatch set to go on sale in time for Christmas 2016.

new balance 3d shoe

What both these brands understand is that technology helps brands establish a direct line to the consumer. Ecommerce platforms can be used to sell directly to them, apps to communicate directly with them and wearable tech to make brands even more a part of consumers’ everyday lives.

As Guive Balooch, global vice president of L’Oreal’s technology incubator, puts it: “Innovation in all forms is key to the future of the beauty category. Innovations like My UV Patch will help us measure the skin and understand changes over time, so they can ultimately help us identify and develop more products for our consumers.”

CES is Cannes in a different guise

ces unveiled

That the number of marketers attending CES is on the rise isn’t in doubt. According to figures from the Consumer Technology Association, which runs CES, more than 26,000 marketing and advertising execs were at the event last year and that number is only expected to have increased this year.

Yet most aren’t launching new products. So what are they doing there? With Cannes not taking place until June, CES is the perfect time to organise meetings, catch up with agencies and ad tech firms, all the while looking for inspiration for new products or ways to reach consumers.

There have previously been some notable marketing successes out of CES. Coca-Cola says CES 2013 provided the inspiration and business opportunity for the range of Misfit Wearables that launched “Coca-Cola red” variants later that year. Meanwhile, at confectionery company Mondelez, the idea for Oreo’s personalised packaging came about after discussions in Las Vegas.

“If CMOs are strategic rather than opportunistic, they can immerse themselves in the environment of CES to help reframe their own thinking.”

James McQuivey, CMO analyst, Forrester Research

“Smart CMOs will want to be affiliated with the new things so they don’t get left on the side of the road to the future. CMOs need to be open to the possibility that there are brand attributes and characteristics that need to be shed,” adds McQuivey.

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