Now that the swarm of 150,000 people who descended on Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last week has moved on to face some semblance of the real world once again, it's time to look back at which trends mattered most for marketers.
Right before the event, I shared a post here, "Five Trends Marketers Need to Watch at CES." Here they are again as a retrospective, with a review of how they played out.
1) TV is no longer the first screen.
Television still ruled the show floor. Sharp promoted the world's largest LED TV and an 85-inch 8K (ultra-high resolution) set, Samsung had its curved OLED TV screen, China's HiSense had a bizarre display for a transparent 3D TV, and LG once again showed off its mesmerizing wall of 3D televisions. While televisions were the showpieces, so many of the sets had mobile handsets, laptops, tablets, cameras, and other devices right beside them to show how the devices connected with each other. Manufacturers drew crowds over with the resolutions but got people to stay to check out the mobile apps. The televisions no longer stood alone.
2) Touch screens need new types of ads.
This trend mentioned not just touch, but also developing fields such as voice and gesture. Samsung offered the most from a major manufacturer, even if its AdHub network was relegated to a postcard-sized display hidden in its vast booth. Samsung had special demo rooms for its enhanced TV voice controls, and it's easy to see how promoted results could fit in. Outside of the convention center, in areas like the Eureka Park zone for cutting edge startups, other ad models sprung up. For instance, Moonrider by Art Jam demoed ads and content designed to work with touch screen devices, while Affectiva measured ad performance by scanning facial expressions. Many others exhibited new portable brainwave-reading devices, so that's another frontier where ads will undoubtedly head as well.
3) The internet of things expands its social network.
The CES preview noted, "The CES version of social media isn't about people connecting with each other; it's about devices connecting with each other." This was true in astounding proportions at this conference. Every device was showing how it connected to something. Cars like the Ford Sync were billed as platforms, Samsung cameras included not just Wifi but 4G, and gadgets big and small were constantly chattering with anything that had a power switch. There was one thing I got wrong: it's no longer about the internet of things. That's geek speak from what now sounds like a bygone era. The new era of connected devices is for everyone. Just how mainstream is it? Lowe's used CES to promote its Iris line of connected devices related to security, energy management, and controlling their homes. Meanwhile, refrigerators don't just have internet access; Samsung's fridge runs Evernote.
4) As tech titans bruise each other, consumers benefit.
This trend had a mixed track record. CES wasn't so much about interoperability as it was every manufacturer trying to pull everyone else into their orbit. For example, Ford had its partners' logos plastered over much of its booth's real estate. Yet Ford wasn't going quite as far as the vision shared by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff at the Brand Matters keynote when he asked, "Why is the car not an app [for your mobile device]?" More brands did start to see their products at platforms, but few are trying to adapt to reach consumers everywhere.
5) Forget about product announcements. None of it will matter in February.
This was true last week, and it will probably be true for CES as long as the show keeps going. TVs with 4K, 8K, and OLED displays are evolutionary; they're the next high end sets that people will buy when the price point nears $1,000. Yotaphone got kudos for its handset with an e-ink display on the back while the digital HAPIfork utensil was featured constantly in the press, but both seem like forgettable first-generation Kickstarter projects. My own favorite showpiece, a computer display made out of air by Displair, will never grace a Best Buy shelf.
There was a lot that mattered though. Time Warner Cable coming to Roku is a massive jolt to the video streaming device market, and one more sign of how important content providers are for hardware manufacturers. At their best, Samsung, LG, Ford, Toyota, Intel, and others offered visitors exciting but attainable visions of the future. Eureka Park, located more than a mile away from the convention center, brought together some of the most inspiring entrepreneurs I've ever encountered in one place. By the time Buddy Media founder Michael Lazerow posted on Facebook that CES is "THE event for marketers," any cynicism of mine had vanished. He's right, and it has probably never mattered more for so many different kinds of marketers. As exhausting as the event was, CES 2014 can't come soon enough.