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A CMO’s guide to CES, 2016

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Las Vegas' CES has become an essential diary entry for marketers the world over, so it's important to make it count. Kieran Hannon discusses 6 ways to make the most of CES as a CMO

Kieran Hannon is the CMO of Belkin International, encompassing brands Belkin, Linksys and WeMo.

CES 2016 CMO guide

This week sees the launch of one of the tech industry’s largest, and most well attended, event of the year: the Consumer Electronics Show.

Thousands of companies, from the largest international brands in the world to one-person startups, descend upon Las Vegas in order to showcase their new products and gadgets to give us a glimpse of the future.

Beyond that however, this one-time hub for gamers and hardcore techies has transformed itself into a marketing mecca where ideas of brand communication, human-technology interaction and consumer trends dominate conversations – both in-front of, and behind, closed doors.

That’s because the merger of technology and marketing is now fully realised.

And so, for any brand sending your CMO or equivalent(s) to CES 2016 this week, it is pivotal he, she and/or they utilise a CES 2016 CMO guide to make the most of one of tech’s most important events.


Know your environment

Whether you’re new to the Las Vegas-based electronics event or a veteran of CES, the size of CES rarely fails to surprise.CES 2016 CMO guide

Not only has the total number of attendees, events, meetings, speeches and exhibitors increased year on year, but the demographic of attendees has evolved: marketer attendance has grown.

The Attendee Audit Summary published results showing over 5,000 advertising and marketing professionals attended CES in 2014, an increase of nearly 9% from 2013. The number of chief marketing officers also rose by 11% and this trend carried on into 2015, all meaning this year will have the largest density of marketers CES has seen.

There are advantages and disadvantages to this, but the key is to be aware that fellow CMOs can provide advice and help you network a room – but can also be your competitors.

The more you understand this the more you’re prepared for the three day event.


Do your research

Today, marketers need to understand technology in the context of the human activities it enables. Think of how consumers connect with each other and with each brand.

Regardless of where you lie on the technology-literate spectrum, CES requires you to keep up with and embrace fast paced innovation, and cultivate partnerships and relationships that marketing agencies now need.

This requires you to plan in advance, or prioritize, your activities.

Depending on your industry or sector, try and map out a relationship diagram of brands, consumers and their technology. Think about how these networks are set to evolve in a wider context of general innovation trends.

This prior knowledge should allow you to refine and focus your commitments at CES: who to talk to, who you should listen to, and where to position yourself to gain the best insights.


Avoid the cardinal sin

That being: getting sidetracked and caught up in side shows, evening events and hotel suites.CES 2016 CMO guide

CES 2015 hosted, for the first time, a venue named C Space at the Aria hotel, a destination for “creative communicators, brand marketers, advertising agencies, digital publishers and social networks.”

Having an offshoot for such people can be important for sharing ideas and relaxing with like-minded individuals, but if too successful, it becomes a meeting which cuts you off from the real innovation elsewhere.

For that, the action is most definitely on the show floor.

Human behavior is changing alongside technology; devices are now allowing consumers to communicate and share on massive scales, and interact with retailers and brands, but you’ll only be able to tangibly experience what this means by exploring the relevant floor space for you.

Be aware though that relevance is key – combine your research with floor navigation for the best chances of serendipitously chancing upon a game-changer piece of tech for your brand.


Notetake and network

This is an important balance to strike.

CES has become less about electronics and more about unveiling to the world how consumers will spend their time in the upcoming year.

It’s obvious how this will affect marketers but it will be the surrounding, individual conversations you have with people, their nuanced predictions or side insights, that you’ll most want to remember and most easily forget.

So take notes – don’t worry about looking like a schoolkid – and learn more about your industry and adjacent sectors. This will aid your pre-CES research and will set you up for any events later on in the year (think Mobile World Congress the following month in Barcelona).

Similarly, networking can be a crucial part of the educational process.

Brands are connecting with consumers through ever changing journeys: consider Red Bull’s transformation into a media powerhouse; this journey, as well as others, will continue to change as devices enable wider and deeper connections via social media.

In essence, we are entering an era of connectivity involving IoT and its drivers, connected and driverless cars, innovation in medical tech and wellness, as examples, and you’ll only be able to learn about these trends and how it could affect your brand from the networks you create.

It’s also a good idea to connect with media and their events – they already have established networks of people and brands that you can tap into and learn from.


Stay inquisitive16863422875_81d02f9901_o

It’s a simple piece of advice that tells you to ask as many questions as you can.

An innate curiosity is a marketer’s best weapon against the increasing pace of innovation; only through learning and discovering ideas and trends can you hope to keep up, or create those changes yourself.

Remember the golden troika

Observe, learn, and interact; if all else above in this CES 2016 CMO guide is forgotten, remember those three messages and you should be able to enjoy CES as it should be, as well as discovering the huge potential it can offer you and your brand.