CONSUMER ELECTRONICS SHOW TO FOCUS ON BRANDING

Topic a Priority as Marketers Gather for Latest Round of Product Releases

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YORK, Pa. (AdAge.com) -- At next week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, attendees will note a bold addition to the technology-packed slate of discussion topics: branding. While mild in comparison to the marketing shindigs held by the soft-drink or consumer-package-goods industries, any talk of branding borders on the cutting edge in an industry where engineering reigns and marketing exists to serve.

The 39-year-old CES has seen the introduction of electronic gadgets from the VCR in 1970 to the plasma TV in 2001, but gee-whiz technology has almost always trumped marketing concerns.
'Hot topic again'
“There’s been a shifting of brands in the consumer-electronics space, along with a devaluation of traditional brands, and all of the sudden marketing is a hot topic again,” said Michael Gartenberg, analyst with Jupiter Research. New brands making strides through marketing, like Apple’s iPod, along with established brands looking to reassert themselves, like Sony, and a rash of technology innovations have pushed the importance of branding to the forefront of the industry again.

The 39-year-old CES has seen the introduction of electronic gadgets from the VCR in 1970 to the plasma TV in 2001, but that gee-whiz technology has almost always trumped marketing plans.

In-game ads
Yet at CES 2006, topics such as branded entertainment and high-tech marketing will get plenty of play with sessions including “Advertising and Games: From In-Game Advertising to Cross Promotion and Custom Brand Extension”; “Internet Video, Advertising & Marketing: The Next Generation of Consumer Reach”; and “Mobile Media, Advertising, and Brand Marketing.”

“A major component of how successful a consumer-electronics product [becomes] is what you call it and how you describe it, which all goes to the brand,” said analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group. While CES is mainly attended by retailers and retail buyers, the manufacturers that “purchase the booths that fund the show,” he said, are “looking for ways to keep the paying audience enthralled” by adding a marketing component.

Record crowd expected
The show is expected to draw a record-breaking crowd of more than 130,000 attendees from 110 countries Jan. 5-8. But CES has evolved in more ways than topics and crowd size.

Further evidence comes in the form of power-packed speaker list. There are the traditional consumer-electronics heavyweights for sure, including Sony Corp. Chairman-CEO Howard Stringer, Kodak CEO-President Antonio Perez and the four CEOs of Best Buy, Circuit City, RadioShack and CompUSA. But the list also includes telecom, software and Internet captains, including Yahoo Chairman-CEO Terry Semel, Dell Chairman Michael Dell, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and Google Co-Founder and President Larry Page.

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