What CMOs Are Talking About at CES: Four Major Trends

Unbundling Has Arrived

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Electronics are increasingly the conduit through which people engage with the world around them. The latest advancements were on display this week at CES -- from wearable devices to app-controlled and internet-connected home appliances, to the most technologically tricked-out cars imaginable.

But what does innovation in personal technology mean for marketers? It means that they need to evolve with their audiences. As MRY's David Berkowitz mentioned here earlier this week, CES is less about new gadgets and more about how people prefer to spend their time. For marketers, this means that the channels and approaches available for connecting with tech-savvy audiences are expanding and transforming. Brands that aren't able to keep up with consumer's tech habits, as well as harness all the data involved, will be left behind.

In that context, there were four major trends on showcase at CES that are impacting marketing right now:

1. Tech gets (really) personal. Wearables such as fitness bands, smart watches, glasses and even "smart clothing" are growing in popularity and sophistication, enabling people to monitor everything from the location of their car keys to their heart rate at the four-mile marker.

Just as the data captured by these devices shapes decision-making for consumers, it also can help brands refine their marketing strategies based on their audiences' behaviors. We've seen the effect of this on TV, with smartphones and tablets allowing viewers to socialize about programming, and for brands to become part of the conversation, in real time. Making these experiences even more personal on new devices will extend marketers' ability to deliver the most relevant messages, at the right time, and in the right place.

2. Everything is connected. Smart cars. Smart thermostats. Smart appliances. Smart pet monitors. This year's CES has demonstrated that virtually anything in the home (or yard, or driveway) can be connected. And, while the jury may still be out on whether the world needs a connected toothbrush or a Bluetooth-controlled baby rocker, it's clear that the "Internet of Things" continues to expand in scope.

As consumers start to embrace web-enabled technologies that assist them in organizing and automating many aspects of their home and daily life, CPG marketers should take note. Connectivity opens the door to services such as auto-replenishment and mobile app alerts that cultivate stronger customer loyalty and drive sales.

3. TV digitization and unbundling has arrived. Rollable flat screens and 4K TVs certainly had the "wow" factor going for them at CES. But, TV hardware took a backseat to content and services this year.

While everyone has long expected digital to cannibalize TV, the TV industry has been busy innovating itself and embracing the role connectivity has on viewing habits. Dish's CES unveiling of its Sling TV service, which includes crown-jewel TV programming like ESPN, is another bold move to bring cord-cutters, cord-nevers, and cord-shavers back into TV's sphere of influence and follows a string of other similar announcements recently (CBS, HBO, ESPN).

This is the beginning of what some speculated would take years: the digitization and unbundling of TV. But, it's happening now, bringing the full spectrum of television online and unlocking data about viewing behavior beyond just age and gender, which has massive implications for marketers. Data-driven and automated strategies will allow marketers to reach and engage their target audiences with much more precision within TV-like environments.

4. It's all about the data. What's happening now with TV highlights why a carefully considered data strategy must be a CMO's top priority. The information available about consumer behavior, media consumption habits and campaign performance has the potential to shape marketing like never before, impacting everything from how ad inventory is purchased to message development and even creative execution.

With data coming at brands from every conceivable direction and array of consumer devices, three issues are critical to consider: ownership, accessibility and monetization. Locking data in "walled gardens," or giving up control to third parties diminishes its value. Marketers need to be able to analyze all the data generated by campaigns, monitored by sensors and captured by devices holistically -- across all channels -- so they can make the best decisions possible about the messages they create, the media they buy and the audiences they engage.

It's always fun to check out the myriad of new products and services showcased at CES. There's more I could talk about, including the coming "maker" movement inspired by 3-D printing, the amazing new technologies coming out of the automotive industry and more.

But whatever the innovation, the most important takeaway for CMOs is this: Be ready to adapt and evolve with the consumers most essential to your success.

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