CES is a monster, 40 years in the making. More than 160,000 people and 3,500 exhibitors are descending upon Las Vegas this week to check out the latest shiny objects at the world’s largest consumer electronics trade show.

And everything CES has become near and dear to our hearts, given our agency work with consumer electronics brands over the years and the challenge of simplifying the complex.

[Attending CES? Remember to gear up with a water bottle, snack bars, Wi-Fi, backup battery, sensible shoes and the CES mobile app.]

welcome-to-fabulous-las-vegas-02

NEW NEW THINGS

This year’s shiny objects include smart homes, 4K TVs, wearables, connected cars and connected home devices. Surrounding the new gadgets is the Internet of Things (IoT) juggernaut, with 900 connected devices (“things”) showcased at CES that communicate without human interaction using IP connectivity. By 2020 this will be a $3 trillion market with more than 30 billion devices, says IDC, changing how we interact with everyday items. Watch for IoT mentions in keynotes from Samsung (Tizen-OS powered TVs), Intel, Ford and Mercedes-Benz.

MODERN MARKETING @ CES

Despite being a product-focused event (by definition), CES also reveals signs of how consumers are changing how they interact with brands and how marketers are taking the steps to become modern marketers and engage audiences in a more personalized, compelling way.

Here are five signs of modern marketing at CES.

1. Customer-Centricity Rules

What is a real estate company doing at CES? With a gazillion new gadgets to connect your home, Coldwell Banker is (rightly) betting that home automation systems, media centers and smart appliances will be big in 2015. They also realize they need to get in front of home buyers early in their decision journey, well before they contact a realtor. For products or services that take more research and consideration (e.g., 4K TVs, cars, home purchases) than impulse buys, nearly two thirds of the purchase decision is made before the customer’s first serious engagement with sales [PDF]. With 22% of Fortune 100 companies staffing a Chief Customer Officer, many brands are making the shift from focusing on product features to customer engagement like MasterCard (see below).

2. Experiences Matter

One of the key mindset shifts for modern marketers is the transition from “campaigns” to “experiences” and planning programs to support ongoing customer engagement as opposed to old-school one-and-done advertising. At CES check out the Brand Matters Program and Michael Donnelly’s (MasterCard) talk on digital disruption and MasterCard’s year of Priceless Surprises – and hopefully some color commentary from the Donnelly Family Digital Lab!

3. Decision Journeys Inform

For the hospitality industry, focusing on extraordinary customer experience is nothing new. But upstarts like Airbnb are pushing established hotel brands to be more creative. To better understand their customer’s holistic experience beyond just finding a room, Airbnb commissioned a Pixar animator to storyboard the entire trip experience frame by frame. The empathetic 30-slide deck reinforced the need to optimize mobile booking and create an Uber-esque car service. At CES look for buzz about keyless entry, temperature control via smartphone, smart rooms that greet you, touch-screen room controls and drone-delivered champagne. Brands are turning to journey mapping exercises to align go-to-market teams and ensure consistent, compelling customer engagement.

4. Omni-Channel Orchestration Unites

A huge challenge for modern marketers is how to consistently engage with an audience across multiple screens, devices and channels. Now that using a second screen while watching TV is the new normal (for 56% of U.S. viewers at least), marketers must rethink how they engage with viewers who tweet, email and otherwise “screen stack” during TV shows. At CES, Samsung adds a twist to the second screen scenario. Going forward, Samsung* revealed that all smart TVs are going to run on its Tizen operating system, ditching their old Android-based smart TV interface. The CES 2nd Screen Summit kicks off Jan 5 in Las Vegas.

*Disclosure: Samsung is an nFusion client.

5. Personalization Connects

It’s been 20 years since Benny Landa predicted that “everything that can be digital will be digital.” Today, the digital customer experience has transitioned from banking and shopping to hailing a car and adjusting your air conditioner, spinning off more datasets and more ways to engage customers. As more and more everyday items are digitally connected, our collective data is mashing it together into online hubs. For brands this is a both a “big data” and “little data” opportunity to personalize what, when and how content gets delivered. While at CES check out the Big Data Revolution in Digital Marketing session to get the latest on marketing cloud platforms from Oracle, Adobe and IBM and how they can orchestrate personalized content and guide decision making.