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Everything You Need to Know From CES 2017

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Jessica Fritsche

Jessica Fritsche

Content Marketing Manager

Freeman

From booth design to brand experience, this year’s CES was full of marketing inspiration

Every January, Las Vegas is taken over by technology. CES® is known all over the world as the epicenter for innovation, inspiration, and everything cool in the world of electronics, computing, and more. This year marked the 50th anniversary of the show, and it did not disappoint — 2017 was the biggest and best one yet.

But it isn’t just inspirational for gadget geeks and tech lovers. There is so much for marketers to learn and observe just from walking through the multiple exhibition halls. Our team was on hand last week to bring you everything you need to know, straight from the show floor in Vegas.

People want personalization

Much of the technology on display, like wearables, voice-activated assistants, and smart home devices, was all about creating and controlling someone’s uniquely individual life, so it’s no shock that the brand experiences on hand focused on allowing attendees to have an extremely personalized experience.

One fitness audio brand connected with attendees on a very personal level, helping them to figure out their biggest goal for 2017 and displaying the handwritten result on the walls of their booth. Toyota tracked each attendee's level of happiness via facial recognition during an experience in one of its smart vehicles, while other brands let people check out their fitness profiles or become immortalized as part of a looping animated photo wall.

Technology creates new attendee pathways

Livestreaming was around every corner at CES. It took the form of journalists and bloggers broadcasting their experience via selfie stick or full broadcast setup, as well as through the new and exciting gadgets on display that make people feel like they’re in the middle of an event, no matter where they’re located.

The new 360-degree cameras and increased development in livestreaming are exciting for marketers who want to create a great virtual brand experience at their events for attendees who are unable to have an in-person presence. This is increasingly important in a world where anyone can stream from their mobile phone via Facebook Live (which we predicted will be even bigger in 2017).

Virtual reality will definitely play a role in giving attendees a seamless virtual event experience, as demonstrated by things such as Sony’s PSVR demo, which put users in a front-row seat for violinist Jamie Bell’s 360-degree recorded concert. Every detail was preserved, down to the crowd behind the user in the recording booth, the pianist off to the side accompanying the song, and the cords on the floor by Bell’s feet. Giving virtual attendees this kind of access at an event is the wave of the future.

Experience is everything

Unsurprisingly, attendees at CES were drawn to everything hands-on. Whether that meant a chance to get up close and personal with the latest and greatest new tech, or simply the opportunity to do something interactive and fun, any booth that allowed attendees to participate were those that had the most activity this year. The United Postal Service was a unique exhibitor for a show like CES, and its buzzing booth featured a Pac-Man-style big-screen game that attendees could play to win prizes, along with a guided tour of the future of postal technology that will eventually allow people to print postage from their phones and interact with touch screens on next-gen mailboxes. 

As we mentioned in our day one recap, virtual reality was among the most popular activities, with lines snaking around the event space for Samsung, Sony, and others. And VR didn’t just get the participants psyched up, either — many of the interactions became shared experiences, with crowds of people cheering on the robot battles, rock climbing, virtual sports, space races, and skydiving (complete with nearby nausea supplies in case the virtual reality experience got, well, too real for someone). 

VIP experiences were everywhere, too, bringing the cachet to make targeted attendees feel like high rollers. From secluded spots on the show floor to parties at Vegas nightclubs to private concerts, brands were eager to make a mark on attendees that they would carry with them post-CES and brag about on social media. You can’t buy that kind of publicity as a brand marketer.

Innovation is the way forward

One thing is for certain — it's hard to attend an event like CES and not be excited about what the future holds. And the keynote speakers who headlined the event, from companies like NVIDIA, Under Armour, Carnival, Huawei, Nissan, and Qualcomm, are visionaries at the forefront of innovation, pushing that future forward through the creation of technologies that will affect all of our lives. Past the draw of the show floor, it's insights like these that make CES the must-attend event every year — and that will continue to draw people from around the world in years to come.

Under Armour has always focused on how it can better people's performance, both on and off the field, and a balanced sleep pattern improves everything that people do. In his session, CEO Kevin Plank showed off the company's new sleep apparel, designed to help people sleep more deeply and reap the benefits of a rested body and mind. Just think what marketers could accomplish with better (if not more) sleep!

The keynote by NVIDIA was all about how imagination lets us shape the future. CEO Jen-Hsun Huang spoke about the future of its processors and their role in active learning of connected devices. NVIDIA's original focus on great graphics and gaming laid the groundwork for its new concentration on artificial intelligence and supercomputing, which stands to change the way that computers — and people — perceive the world around them. 

Design makes a difference

A number of brands seemed to go for contrast in their booth design, using softer, natural elements like reclaimed wood, succulents, and plush seating to showcase their high-tech products. These surprising spaces created interest and drew in passing attendees to explore what the brand represented. Sony’s space at one end of the convention center’s Central Hall felt like a cozy home, with separate rooms dedicated to things like its new OLED TVs and PlayStation VR demos.

That’s not to say that the more tech-focused designs were overlooked. LG’s sleek space drew a large crowd, one that literally ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the large tunnel of OLED 4K displays that played a loop of sound and stunning animated visuals, making the experience feel like something out of a museum. 

Expect the unexpected

CES is never short of surprises, considering the kinds of innovative products it showcases. But there were a few brands in particular that took the idea of “surprise and delight” to heart in order to draw attendee attention. That’s something that any marketer can scale, big or small, and apply to the brand experience and his or her next event. Getting to know event attendees means that you’re not only prepared to answer their questions and meet their needs, but also find something that creates a sense of wonder and joy. That’s exactly what these brands did.

For example, Polaroid’s presence at CES was all about both reinventing and reinvigorating its brand — bringing it into the 21st century with the new Polaroid Pop camera while still retaining the whimsy and magic of the original Polaroid’s ability to capture a moment, in the moment. And if passersby weren't immediately drawn to the products themselves, it was hard to go by Polaroid’s booth space without checking out the weird-but-charming “Monkey See, Monkey Cube” display treehouse showcasing its Go Pro-esque Cube+ cameras or the human canvas that let attendees paint a masterpiece on his skin and clothing.

Of the many robotics companies showing off their futuristic wares, a few of them took a fun approach to showing off the capabilities of their products. Japanese company Murata brought out its robotic cheerleaders for a few performances to show off the technology behind the pom poms, while Suitable Technologies’ Beam telepresence robots were a fun twist on the booth attendant, greeting passersby from places all over the world. It’s a startling but fun moment when you’re trying to squeeze through the crowd and suddenly find yourself face-to-virtual-face with someone live from New Mexico.

A focus on going green

Sustainability is important to many brands in order to meet the requirements of today’s environmentally conscious consumer. People are looking for devices that use less electricity, create less of a carbon footprint, and help them to be more green in their daily lives, whether that’s using less plastic or even growing their own herbs and vegetables. But that sustainability story isn’t just about the products on display — it carries all the way through to what happens to the show floor when the lights go down on CES for another year.

Freeman and CTA partner together on an annual plan to help reduce the environmental impact of the show by recycling as much as possible from the convention center and expo hall, including waste, banner materials, carpet, and more. Exhibitors are also encouraged to donate things like raw booth materials or furniture to local charities, a program that helps support the charities’ end goals and strengthen ties between CES and the Las Vegas community.

Only to experience CES is to truly believe it, given the almost overwhelming degree of brands, tech, and one-of-a-kind moments happening in one city. But for marketers looking to take their brand to the next level, it’s an event that sets the tone for the year when it comes to inspiring attendees and creating a truly immersive brand experience. 

Want more? Check out these additional perspectives on digital and event technology

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