CMOs Flock to Consumer Electronics Show to 'Get a Feel for the Pace of Change'

Vegas Gathering Has Become a Crucial Stop for Marketers Who Want to Learn About the Devices Affecting Consumers' Lives

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A panoply of gizmos, the Consumer Electronics Show has long been a mecca for geeks. But increasingly, CES is not just for the "digital" execs -- marketers are bringing large teams for a whirlwind tour of meetings, product demos and floor tours from Jan. 8 to 11. The Las Vegas gathering a must-make stop for marketing chiefs who want to get their hands on the devices that are quickly changing the lives of consumers. We talked to three of them.

CMO, Unilever

At this point, you're a CES veteran. What kind of team are you bringing this year?
We are bringing a reasonably sized team, 10 people. But we're not just bringing out media and marketing teams like last year. This year I'll be with our CIO and CFO.

Why is CES important to Unilever?
We go to get a feel for the pace of change. We have an interest in the way people live their lives, and that has undergone radical change in the past five years, perhaps the most radical change since the Industrial Revolution. We are interested in where they are spending their media time. As the world's second-largest advertiser, that is important to us.

What do you expect to see this time?
One thing that was present last year was that everything is mobile and connected. This year, the hardware and software are not locked into the device, they're in the cloud. A car connected to a fridge via the cloud is nothing more than a mobile shopping cart. Can you imagine driving by a shop and knowing you're short on Hellmann's and then being alerted that there's a deal on Hellmann's?

Is there a risk of getting too far ahead of consumers?
My principle is , I want to get to the future first and welcome consumers as they arrive. That way we don't have to chase them. There is nothing wrong with failing as long as you do it quickly and don't scale the failures.

Managing director-digital marketing, JP Morgan Chase

Tell me about the team you're bringing to CES.
This time we've decided to take a broad group of C-level execs and not just the marketing guys. We're bringing people from mortgage, our car business, credit and retail banking to experience how their businesses are going to change and evolve.

Why is CES important?
We have the most-used mobile-banking app, but what's that going to look like in five or 10 years and how are we going to deliver the best customer experience for those folks?

Do you have a specific agenda for what you'd like to see?
Hopefully we will see some new mobile technologies and use cases that will push our thinking and product suite in ways we haven't thought about. Branches are important. Digitizing the branch experience is also important. How can we leverage big data to provide better experiences to our customers?

How do you think this will impact JPMorgan Chase in the future?
Banking has been a product-centered business, and it evolves into a consumer-centered business. Digital mobile devices will help make the banking utility better for customers. Taking a picture of a check and not going to an ATM is pretty revolutionary. You will see a tenfold increase in utility and customer functionality.

CMO, L'Oréal USA

This is your first time at CES; are you ready for the sheer scale of it?
We are getting it curated and having folks that have gone for many years guiding us through the most important areas to go through, otherwise it could be overwhelming. Our digital agency [Moxie] has done a great job of putting together a whole agenda for us.

What technologies excite you?
Last year there was a lot of talk about next-generation TVs. TV is still the biggest part of our advertising spend, so we're interested to see how TV is evolving and connecting with a second-screen experience.

Will you take the opportunity to meet with tech partners?
We've partnered with Microsoft and Xbox to create a beauty app. This is what the future of TV will look like, and it's something that came out of an early conversation with Microsoft and Xbox. So, how do we find the next Xbox idea in terms of opportunities to engage with the consumer in new ways?

What does tech mean for the future of your business?
We are seeing personalization go to a whole new level. The path to purchase is being transformed and it will change where we put our resources. We have historically spent the bulk of our resources in the consideration phase, in TV and magazines. We will move some of that into the research phase. How does tech allow us to create the one-to-one connection faster than others?

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