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Not My Father's CES

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The acronym "CES" was mentioned to me for the first time when I was a young girl. My father, a manufacturer sales representative in the consumer electronics industry, attended the trade show in Las Vegas every January to connect with clients and secure new lines to represent. Fast forward 30 years and I attended my first CES, as a member of the media and advertising community. I never envisioned a work-related connection to my father.

The show used to be held in Chicago until weather moved it permanently to Vegas, which is a fitting location. It is a spectacle filled with "oohs" and "aahs" and people pulling out their bright, shiny objects to look their best in order to attract attention and interest. It's a gamble -- how big to go with the exhibit to generate interest and excitement. This year, I attended a meeting with Apple (yes, even Apple was there for meetings) and Carrie Frolich, Agency Relations at iAd, noted that CES is similar to the fashion "catwalk syndrome." Meaning, like most of the leading fashion designers, electronic manufacturers are keen to display their best products and concepts to woo attendees. And, like couture, some of the things were meant for the show and will never become launched, let alone fashionable.

During a "Digital Hollywood" panel, my ears perked at a comment that CES should be re-named the Consumer "Ecosystem" Show -- a very astute observation recognizing the interconnectivity and interdependence of devices moving forward. This is an area marketers need to pay attention to and consider the implications:

Connected Devices à Connected Consumers: It's about the overall experience for a consumer -- and how connected devices enrich consumers' lives providing simplicity and one less thing to think about. Cloud connectivity allows consumers to pick-up on one device wherever they left off -- like reading an e-book in your iPad and then shifting to your iPhone and then back again. We cannot continue to view media in silos, especially when assessing success via market mix modeling. Adding two or three variables together does not provide the full picture of influence across vehicles utilized to actively engage consumers with brands. With consumers in control, brand managers need to become brand leaders curating their brands while allowing consumers to do the same.

Blurring of devices: With a desire to add more features to devices and create streamlined experiences, we continue to see hybrid devices such as TV/computer and tablet/phone. In the latter area, AT&T announced their launch of the Galaxy Note (known as the Galaxy S-III in Asia). It's billed as a phone, but when you look at it -- the screen is beautiful, great resolution (AMOLED display), lightweight -- however it feels a bit large for a phone (screen size 5.3 inches) and yet looks more like a small tablet. For people who use Bluetooth or a headset while on their mobile phone, this will give a more hybrid experience. The Note comes with a stylus to create and design pictures as well as take notes. We continue to use traditional descriptions but these new devices create a new set of behaviors and interaction for consumers. Marketers need to find ways to connect and be part of the experience.

Devices enable richer content experiences: One thing hasn't changed -- Content is still king. The technology and hardware of some of the new devices provide a richer experience including vibrant colors and display. The challenge for marketers is to ensure they recognize the need to develop a robust content strategy across devices to deliver integrated and engaging experiences.

Even though my father's not alive to discuss the ways in which CES and the ecosystem has changed, I know he would have loved seeing the sophisticated TVs and devices on display and the way this impacts consumers lives.

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