The 4 C's of CES

We kicked off the new year with an inspiring pilgrimage to the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the world’s gathering place for all who thrive on the business of consumer technologies. More than 165,000 people walked through 2.5 million square feet of trade show space in Las Vegas to see the most cutting edge consumer technologies from tech powerhouses to innovative startups. 

The innovations on display provided a tangible glimpse of the not-too-distant future, a future where consumers have more choice and control than ever before, and old models—models we marketers have depended upon for decades to connect brands to consumers—will be challenged and morphed. On the precipice of many watershed moments that will fundamentally change the media landscape and advertising, many marketers were left with questions about how brands will be built in a future where “advertising” can be avoided with the click of a button.

Rather than face these changes with dread, the opportunity for agencies and brands is to embrace this future with open arms and get ready to create brand connections using new methods. In preparation, here are four key themes to understand:


Netflix opened CES by going live in 130 new countries and becoming the single largest global media network (without any ads) that provides consumers with their choice of content. New products (TVs, TiVo, Slingbox, Dish Network, etc.) were also promoted for their built-in capabilities to skirt terrestrial television and allow users to “view without ads” (a new option on TiVo), bringing ad blocking beyond the Internet/display advertising. The interruptive side dish of standard paid media ad inventory as we know it is seeing a major decline. This means brands must now create or integrate into content that consumers choose to view as the main dish. 


Connected devices, cars, intelligent machines and artificial intelligence are creating new ecosystems where service rules. 3D scanners and printers mean brands will sell intellectual property, not hard products, to become design houses that sell schematics for items that can be made at home. (“Download your new Nikes!") Brands will win by offering new forms of convenience that predict consumer needs and answer them.


Payment systems are integrating into everything (and I mean everything), closing the distance between convenient services and the ability to buy. Mastercard and Samsung have partnered to make ordering groceries as simple as approving a “reminder” order displayed on the front of your refrigerator. Groceries will be delivered by Fresh Direct today and probably by drones soon. Brands need to find easier ways for people to buy.


Winning companies are collaborators. Netflix partners with every movie studio and device maker (Netflix buttons are now featured on 12 OEM remotes!). Phillips Sonicare partners with Mint, a wearable device that detects your breath quality and diagnoses your overall dental hygiene to help promote better habits. UnitedHealthcare partners with Trio (a fitness wearable), employers and health care providers to create fun, desirable devices and experiences that reward people for improved health and connect them to proactive care and support. Brands should partner with other influential companies to find new relevance and growth opportunities. More and more, agencies will need to help brands scout for new partners to defend against competitors, drive new scale and create added relevance.