How I spent my CES Vacation (part 2)

OK, so last time I talked about some of the cool stuff I saw in booths at CES.  This time I thought I would share my impressions of the marketing of products at CES.

First off, let me say that I claim some expertise in this area.  I have designed booths, run, hosted, exhibited and attended many, many trade shows, so I like to think (IMHO) that I have a pretty good feel of what works.  I think marketing at trade shows breaks out into three areas (I think there are many other areas that are vital – such as booth location / pre-show promotion, etc., but I’m going to focus on marketing on the floor): awareness; attitude; and usage.

In terms of on-floor marketing, Awareness is getting people from the floor to come into your booth.  Attitude is getting people to think a certain way about your product or service, and Usage is getting people to follow your call-to-action (next step).  The call-to-action could be having people buy something right then and there, or it could be just getting them to give you contact information for follow-up later.

Every booth at CES was dedicated to awareness and attitude, but in all fairness, many booths weren’t trying to drive usage.  In some cases, building awareness and/or attitude was enough (especially with emerging prototype / proof-of-concept technologies).  So, with that said, here are my personal impressions:

Let’s start with awareness.

I must congratulate many of the booths for dropping the sexist aspect to booth marketing.  I did not see 1 girl in a bikini on the floor . . . and I was looking.  There may have been some – I just didn’t see it.  Seriously though, the first thing I noticed was that the old-fashioned 10×10 skyline display is gone.  Almost every booth had more than just graphics stuck to a standard display.  I think 80% of the booths had TVs or monitors facing out to capture attention.

Unfortunately, it’s like shopping at the mall – since every booth had them – none stood out.  Among smaller booths (10×10), I think what really worked best was having the product out for quick view.  I walked every aisle and looked at every product.  I was looking for specific things, but booths that had their product out for display (even if not what I was looking for) caught more than a glance from me.  I even stopped at a couple of booths that had intriguing products on display.  The simple truth is that you have to have a good product – that’s the bottom line.

Among bigger booths – which really go all out – I saw 3 that really drew me in – even though I wasn’t seeking them out.  Now, to be fair, I have disqualified booths where I was intentionally heading as good or bad, I was going to visit.  Anyway – third place was Sony.  Yes, it was full of 3D stuff which bugged me, but the booth had nice, soft colors which stood out against surrounding bright neon-like displays.  They had wide aisles and even though were full of people – really seemed quite inviting – as if I could walk right in and look around without getting jostled.  They also had one of the cars from the Green Hornet (movie) on display – which was cool.

Second place was Motorola.  They had a GREAT display using LED lights on racks that were synched to show their logo – products – and then go dark / invisible.  It was attention-getting to me because I was walking along and surprised by bright lights – it caught my attention.

The winner was Audi.  I’m not even sure how to properly describe their booth (and of course, like an idiot, I took no pictures).  It was as if they built a big cube on the floor.  The cube was all white and when you walked “in” the cube, everything was a very soft light.  It looked like Jeff Bridge’s house in TRON.  It was simplistic and soft – and it worked.  It was like an oasis in the middle of a crazy floor.  They had some cars on display and an exhibit or two – but tons of room – just really, really cool and inviting.  I don’t have or plan to buy an Audi, but I went into that booth just to escape.

So that was Awareness.  Let’s talk about attitude.  Most booths seem to end up in 2 categories – either the rep beats you over the head about their product, or they act cool and don’t engage you at all.  The best booths were somewhere in the middle, but that’s really a personal preference thing – like shopping.  Everyone is different.  So, I thought I would point out a few booths that I thought did a good job marketing their product / service to me.  In no particular order, I thought Motorola did a really good job showing off their new products.  Their displays really showed off what made the product unique and how it could improve productivity.  Another was Alcatel-Lucent.  Their technology was so good that they could just let the products show themselves.  I was able to organically interact with several of their products and draw my own conclusions about how to use / recommend them.

For me, I had the best “attitude” engaging with booths where the product or service had a purpose and I could engage with that product or service organically.  For example, a booth that was selling iPad accessories had those accessories on iPads – and those iPads were running MyCES software (map locator).  I was able to use the iPad they provided to pinpoint my location on the floor and map my next move.  The iPad accessory, in this case – a handle – let me hold the iPad and showed me how easy it would be to tilt the screen and keep the iPad secure, etc.  So here was a small booth, just trying to move small (cheap) accessories, but the way their product was presented made me want one.  That’s just an example – but that concept was repeated in booths that got me interested in their products.  Put it out – let me interact with it – be available if I have questions – pretty simple, but effective.

And finally, usage.  Rather than pick out booths, I’ll just give some things I noticed.  First, I was surprised how few booths were using card-readers.  As an attendee, we had ‘credit cards’ that were available for swipe – but several times I offered my card only to be told that they hadn’t gotten the reader.  I don’t know if I was secretly being tracked via RFID or if the expo hall was charging a fortune for these readers, but I was surprised.

I also noticed that text is dead.  DEAD!  I didn’t see one booth asking me to text for more information about their product or service.  Instead, I got a ton of simple cards (like postcards) with 2D barcodes.  A lot of booths were giving those out.  I really think those rock.  Seriously – I didn’t have to pack a bunch of brochures or catalogs – I didn’t have to try to match up business cards with stuff later on – I just took the card and scanned it with my phone.  Boom.  A lot of information at my fingertips.  I liked it – probably not for everyone, but worked great for me.

Tons marketing effort to drive people to Facebook.  Is there anyplace they haven’t reached?  I saw as many Facebook URLs as I did regular URLs.  Crazy.  I was also surprised that I didn’t see as many promotional items on the floor as usual.  In the past, I would end up with quite a collection of pens, notepads, stress balls, stuffed animals, whatever, that were imprinted with a URL – not so much this year.

And, no matter what people say, the business card isn’t dead.  Asian exhibitors, especially, still value the exchange of business cards.  I found that many reps liked to exchange business cards after worthwhile discussions.  I kind of like doing that – except that unless I make a note – I’ll forget the details.  I think people should start putting 2D barcodes on their business cards.  Then I could scan the card and make notes on my phone.  I suppose I could carry a pen, but that doesn’t seem as cool.

Another thing that seems to have changed over the years is the something for something model.  It used to be that booths would let you take a picture with a showgirl (for example) or sit in a Ferrari and get your picture taken (for example) if you let them swipe your badge.  I didn’t really see a lot of that this year.  I also noticed a distinct lack of sweepstakes.  There was plenty of booths that were doing a giveaway of a product from the floor (drop business card to win), but nothing really high-end.  We do sweepstakes promotions, so I am really familiar with the rule requirements, especially in Nevada, so I wanted to go up to those places and ask to see the Official Rules and then threaten to sue.  I should have done that.

Overall, I would say that most companies seem to have shifted responsibility to the attendee.  I’m not saying that’s right or wrong (I like it), but so few people took my information (swipe or business card) that in order to follow-up, I will have to reach out to the company.

So that was my CES trip – and these are my unorganized thoughts regarding that trip.  Other random stuff – Cosmopolitan is cool.  I ate at a place called the Wicked Spoon (in the Cosmopolitan) that was the BEST place I have EVER eaten in Vegas.  M&M World is now selling personalized M&Ms on site (very fast printing).  The Amazing Jonathan was dark or I would have seen his show.

See you at CES 2012.

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