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CES & The CMO Agenda

 

The annual gadget-fest that is CES copped a fair degree of flack before it even begun. Not the normal “it’s a waste of time, old world show” – the justified criticism was for the lack female keynote speakers. That didn’t seem to deter anyone – the floors were packed and the usual anarchy prevailed for taxis, dining and hotel rooms.

 

So, was it worth it? Yes. And learnings for CMOs? Plenty.

 

CES is always a mixed bag in terms of showcasing breakthroughs. There were washing machines that could fold clothes, cheaper and smaller drones, foldable 4k displays and autonomous vehicles zipping about – most of it is stuff we were expecting. Robots didn’t appear to get more beneficial beyond vacuuming and though Aibo — a robot dog — was fun, it wouldn’t be enough to get me to replace our Husky.

 

Steve’s post is packed full of juicy insights. I’d suggest a few actions CMOs should be taking in the context of what we saw wandering 70 km over the week. Some might make your list of priorities – others won’t but are worth keeping an eye on.

  1. Big beautiful screens demand big beautiful content and advertisers that get the format. TV, PCs, mobile and more will demand amazing live, linear, and on-demand content. The focus on mobile is spot-on but consumers want extraordinary “lean-back” experiences as well – and those experiences are going to get even more incredible. Is your video strategy expansive enough to attract eyeballs at 4k and beyond? Does your media strategy comprehend the depth of experiences consumers are looking for?

  2. Everybody’s talking, is your brand listening? Voice AI — with Assistant and Alexa dominating — appeared in nearly every device at the show. It was hard to spot a surface that didn’t have an ad for Google Assistant on it – from booths to Monorails and more. Steve said it well, voice has shifted from a feature to a strategy. Navigating to your favourite show, discovering what’s on now, and so much more will start with voice and be complemented by other interactions. And as the Internet of Things deploys, voice becomes the tool to ask your TV to dim the lights, check if the washing is done, order an Uber and more. Are you working voice into customer interactions, eCommerce and product functionality?

  3. Mobile is awesome, but don’t forget sit-back experiences are compelling. The new generation of TVs were amazing and underscore the power of ‘sit back’ viewing experiences. While last year 4k was all the rage, this year was all about 8k+ and the evolution of HDR (support for 120-frames per second video). LG’s 85 inch OLED TVs were amazing to see, as were Samsung’s 8k versions. Obviously not too much content to take advantage of that so lots of talk about magically scaling-up current content. Nvidia dominated the talk at the show with a new generation of chips powering gaming monitors the side of TVs – with massive refresh cycles. Samsung’s Wall TV was impressive. Was weird to first look at a monster TV with seams but from the couch it was amazing and far more elegant than current solutions for watching multiple content streams at once. Are you thinking about “big content”? Do you have a content and media strategy for supporting and wrapping “big content”?

  4. If your product sits in the home, it needs to connect to the home. That whole view of the digital home – from entertainment, operations, and security — is getting very real thanks to advances making it simple, easy, durable and desirable. Gone are all the wires. Perhaps the last will be to the router or set-top box and an HDMI connection – but the trend on the rest was clear – total wireless transmission in a few years time. Every brand gets impacted by the tech innovations percolating away – the change this year is they are converging and accelerating. The simple example was the next generation of washing machines that store big volumes of detergent – they automagically reorder refills when they need to – they notify you on your phone and TV when the wash is done – they tell you when the rain is about to hit drying clothes – and, they tell you the time of day it’s cheapest to consume electricity and magically schedule washes to lower your bills. How connected is your brand and how will it create value for customers through that connection?

  5. Brands need to be resilient – basic infrastructure mostly is until it isn’t. It rained in Las Vegas. It flooded. Then the power went out. Accelerating automation and convergence will require affordable and reliable basic infrastructure from broadband to power. With every device talking to every device and always connected, inadequate broadband and power is going to be a killer. And with every device being a video display, offering unthrottled, predictably pacey broadband really matters!

  6. AI Everywhere. As a whole, the noise on AI was much lower than anticipated and largely assumed to be part of everything. There wasn’t a TV not claiming to have intelligence – but that largely meant better pictures, sound and control over the TV. The gap between controlling basic on/off functionality and real smarts is huge. We are some ways off devices being able to interpret nuances – “footie” here, isn’t what “footie” is up there which means surfacing content isn’t as easy as claimed.

  7. Geeky stuff galore. Synaptics clear ID fingerprint sensor was impressive. Razr followed Samsung’s noise last year with a cool concept of a mobile phone – Project Linda – a smartphone drops into the trackpad space  and then connects to the monitor, keyboard, and hard drive via USB-C. Loads of geeky stuff like this. The space dedicated to devices that might make us better was impressive. Increasingly the devices that track from our wrists will find more logical places that give more accurate data – insoles for instance that track steps, strike pressure and more. Wearable headbands to enhance sleep. Mouthguards that detect concussion.

CES was an amazing experience with invaluable learnings. Well worth the trip for any marketer.

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