CES demos why marketers should step into wearables

This year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas proved again to be an extravaganza of the great, the good and the bizarre of the gadget world. And while most of the products on show were iterative improvements to verticals such as TV, the smart home and the usual wacky display of robotics, wearable technology shone through as the real trend marketers will need to plan for.

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It is estimated that more than 10,000 advertising industry executives attended CES this year. This included the top marketers from brands including Unilever, Ford and American Express to  most of the CEOs at major advertising agencies such as Publicis Groupe’s Maurice Levy, according to CNBC.

Technology companies including Intel, Sony and LG all made major product announcements during the show (more of that here).

Simon Robinson, senior director of marketing and alliances for the EMEA region at marketing technology company Responsys, was particularly struck by Sony’s life logging app.

“As marketers realise the importance of understanding a consumer’s likes, dislikes and past behaviour in order to build effective relationships, Sony offers a powerful personalisation tool that has the potential to transform how marketers reach and engage with individuals,” he says.

Another particularly striking trend from the new products on show were the attempts to reinvent the wearable segment into something more fashionable. The segment to date has been dominated by chunky wristbands and products like Google Glass which act like a massive geeky golf sale sign alerting passers by of utter cretins.

This year, much of the wearable tech on show was far more palatable – ranging from the beautiful smart jewellery from Ezio to a favourite of mobile agency Somo’s Thania Guardino, who was in attendance at the show: the June Bracelet by Neatamo, which is a beautiful, “feminine” gemstone bracelet that acts as a sun sensor.

Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich used his keynote at the event to outline how the chipmaker plans to create “reference design devices” for other technology companies to follow in the hope of making products that “solve real problems” and “integrate with our lifestyles”. It hopes to speed up the development of such products with the launch of a competition for the best wearable technology ideas with a $1.3m prize and by forming a partnership with US fashion organisations.

What all this means for marketers is that wearable technology is set to become the new normal, with more devices coming to the market this year that suit every demographic, not just early adopters.

Marketers should not necessarily be looking to take up Intel’s challenge in replicating “reference design” pieces, but they would be wise to start planning how they can add value through watches, glasses, apps, jewellery, clothing and more as consumers increasingly track their behaviour.

With monitors now being able to detect a person’s stress levels, hours of sleep, altitude, the noise level of their environment, vulnerability to UV rays and more, there are thousands of opportunities to engage with consumers and lend a helping hand.

As with any device, and especially those as personal as wearables, clear guidelines will need to be set as to when personalised targeting becomes intrusive – no doubt something trade bodies and other interested parties will begin to discuss as the “quantified self” moves from a future-gazing buzzword to a reality.

Analysts at CCS Insight predict it will not be until 2017 at the earliest that the wearable tech sector reaches true critical mass, but there’s value in getting to the “future first”, as Unilever often says it aspires to do. Those brands that can solve consumer problems and be genuinely useful in this space can go beyond engaging with consumers, to truly enchanting them