Vegas sign

Making a show at CES

Show’s over, folks.

CES wrapped this week, and as millions of pounds worth of technology and intelligence were packed up and flown out of the Nevada desert, those following the show were left to reflect on the dazzling highlights from Vegas.

The most exciting innovations to emerge this year ranged from the very small – Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor – to the large – Faraday Future’s first electric car, the FF91. Las Vegas is also home to the weird and the wonderful, and CES was no exception. Each year visitors and the watching public are surprised, amused and occasionally bemused by some of the technology on show. This year we saw a range of suped-up objects claiming ‘smart’ status. These included Hair Coach, the ‘world’s first’ smart hairbrush which offers feedback to users on hair health and brushing technique; ‘essential’ vibrating jeans which connect to the wearer’s mobile via Bluetooth and vibrate to give directions; and the tea cube which sends a notification to the owner’s phone when water has reached the correct tea temperature and steeping requirement.

Novelty and innovation was showcased by an array of industries represented at CES, yet whilst the Babel PR team were keeping one eye on product news, another was focussed firmly on exhibitors’ comms strategies. CES offers a stage for some of the most profitable global corporations, many of which chose once again to add spectacle to product launches and press conferences.

Attendees at Intel’s press conference were greeted at their seats with VR headsets and sick bags, and during the event were immersed in a number of virtual reality experiences. These included VR footage of a waterfall in Vietnam, parachuting through a valley, and a technician inspecting solar panels, illustrating the impact of this technology on different industries. Intel was pushing the message of wireless ‘Merged Reality’, a concept it has been developing with RealSense and Project Alloy. With such a dramatic delivery and means of engaging the audience, the event unsurprisingly received a high level of media coverage.

Another corporate giant with an equally sizeable marketing budget, AT&T opted for a celebrity speaker at its CES press event. Rather than a one-off conference, the telecoms conglomerate held a two-day Developer Summit which featured Hollywood actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and US band Blink-182. The high profile appearance of Gordon-Levitt was a sure-fire way of attracting media and public attention, but was it on-message?

Celebrity endorsement (or appointing a ‘brand ambassador’) is one of the oldest tricks in the PR book. By aligning the message or product with a well-known figure, a company can instantly communicate a whole host of ideals as well as access to an established fan-base. However, the choice of ‘ambassador’ is crucial.  AT&T clearly viewed Gordon-Levitt (who is the founder of an online music production company) as an apt spokesperson for his session, which looked at disseminating public art via the internet. Perhaps not the closest tie to the tech world, but a more sensible choice than some celeb endorsements we’ve seen in recent years. These include Oxfam ambassador Scarlett Johansson who appeared in an ad for SodaStream, an Israeli company which operates a factory in a settlement on the West Bank.

Interestingly, despite the headline-grabbing strategies employed by a number of companies at CES, the one name which had a quietly industrious presence was Amazon. Not an official exhibitor at the show, Amazon still managed to gain a position as one of its stand-out leaders. Amazon’s Alexa was integrated into a long list of products being demoed, from cars and phones, to fridges and air purifiers.

Marketing and PR always play a crucial role in any company’s trade show strategy – evidenced by those currently in the depths of MWC planning! Flashy press conferences may ensure media coverage, but as Amazon demonstrated at CES this year, innovation and a strong brand concept and message will still steal the show.

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From the Babel team

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