The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) returned for the 50th time last week, aiming to showcase the best (and sometimes worst) of the tech industry.
There were some interesting products on view, from jeans that tickle wearers to smart boxer shorts for men. Yet many of the big tech firms no longer use it to announce major product updates.
The show, which began in 1967, has in its time seen the introduction of Blu-ray disc format, plasma TVs and smart TVs. However, big tech brands such as Microsoft and Apple no longer exhibit and even those tech firms that do turn up, such as Samsung and Amazon, tend not to announce new products or flagship devices.
Large companies would be foolish not to investigate the hype in Las Vegas.
Thomas Husson, Forrester
And much of the new tech this year was similar to previous years. Think wearables, augmented reality and robots.
Yet there is clearly still a buzz around the show, with Brandwatch reporting 640,000 mentions of CES across social media, while the top mentioned brands included Intel, Logitech and Amazon. There were also 30,000 mentions each of virtual reality and TVs over the course of the show.
Thomas Husson, vice-president principal analyst at research firm Forrester, says despite CES no longer being about showcasing major new technologies, it would be “foolish” for larger companies not to get involved.
“It’s not so much about the product announcements themselves but on how brands will scale innovation by delivering contextual content and services on these new interfaces,” Husson tells Marketing Week.
“The vast majority of startups and gadgets showcased at CES will fail. However, large companies would be foolish not to investigate the hype in Las Vegas because most underlying trends are here to stay and will transform businesses in the coming years.”
Key trends from this year’s event include the integration of intelligent agents, such as Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana, along with extended reality such as VR and AR being incorporated into key products. The event has become much more about development and is a place for large consumer facing brands of any sector to establish their mark as tech leaders.
Non-tech brands jump on board
This year, L’Oréal introduced the world’s first smart hairbrush, which uses algorithms to score the quality of the user’s hair and to monitor the effects of different hair care routines.
Although it may seem like a gimmick, the brand’s general manager of Kérastase, Vincent Nida, tells Marketing Week CES is more than a PR stunt and that it is important for L’Oréal to be credible in the tech field, as a leader in the beauty industry.
Similarly, Pernod Ricard used the event to gain recognition as an innovator, showing off its connected cocktail library.
“We wanted to display it at CES as we could get a lot of exposure and it’s not necessarily a familiar environment for Pernod Ricard,” says Alain Dufossé, managing director of Pernod Ricard’s Breakthrough Innovation Group.
Toy brand Lego has also used the event to push its education agenda with an app-based coding play experience, called Lego Boost, which urges children to learn to code.
Speaking to Marketing Week, Mick McCabe, global chief strategy officer at Publicis Worldwide, says the switch of brands exhibiting at CES is similar to that at Cannes, which changed from primarily creatives and a production conference, to more broadly attracting clients, media companies, ad tech companies and the broader business and marketing worlds.
“The business, creativity and technology worlds are now inescapably one world. Evidenced by the 170,000 people who make a pilgrimage to Las Vegas every year to witness the many different versions of the future on display,” McCabe comments.
Although CES has moved away from its traditional product focus, this does not mean marketers should take any less notice of the event. Its new direction means more brands should be getting involved, whether they have a tech background or not, in order to establish themselves as innovators within their sectors and to avoid being left behind their competitors.