Thoughts and Images from CES 2011

by Mack Collier

Last week I was able to attend CES (The Consumer Electronics Show) for the first time.  I was in town working with TMG on a Citi Webcast for its Citi 2G and Thank You Card programs, and decided to spend an extra day in Vegas to check out CES.  I wanted to see the pretty toys, but also wanted to see some of the marketing tactics that companies were using to drive attention to their setup.  And, of course, I was hoping to meet a few of my friends in the social media space.

The 1st thing I noticed about CES when I arrived at the Convention Center is that I had a LOT of walking ahead of me.  Partly because the show is so spread out, and partly because I am directionally-challenged and couldn’t find anything.  I seriously believe I lost 2 hours on Friday walking in the wrong direction looking for a session or an exhibit hall.  And the fact that CES was an absolute madhouse didn’t help, there were about 3 times as many people as SXSW, confined in a smaller convention center.

After catching a couple of social media sessions, I headed to the exhibit floor.  I quickly learned that almost every exhibit had at least one of the following:

  • A pretty car
  • A pretty girl
  • iPad/iPhone skins

The 3rd one surprised me, but accessories for the iPad and iPhone were the most common products I saw.  Also saw a lot of 3D technology, especially for TVs.

After walking around for a bit, most of the booths started to blend together, and many were setup as having a small desk area where a couple of people were giving info about the products.  But I did notice a few booths that at least had interesting visuals, such as this one for a product that claimed to ‘clean your music files’:

As you might expect, the big brands had huge exhibit spaces and splashy guests.  As luck would have it, I missed the biggest guest of all, as Lady Gaga showed up at the Polaroid booth on Thursday, while I was at The Mirage working on the Citi Webcast.  But I did get over on Friday to the Sony area to see the ESPN crew doing a live remote:

And I think Panasonic had an exhibit space larger than some of the towns in North Alabama.  Probably the coolest thing I saw at CES was this huge sand sculpture that the artist was finishing up as I found it.  Not sure this makes me any more likely to buy a Panasonic product, but it was cool nonetheless:

The biggest problem I had at CES (and it was a problem for a lot of the people I talked to) was getting around and also finding where I wanted to go.  This is where I think companies missed some opportunities for connecting with attendees and influencers.

First, when I landed in Las Vegas, I made my way outside and to the longest taxi line I had ever seen.  I was in this line for at least an hour.  I was updating my movement on Twitter, when @Sue_Anne had a great suggestion:  Branded shuttles.  A company could have provided shuttle runs for 50 or so attendees at a pop, and for the next 15-30 mins, they could give us a commercial for their products while we were on the shuttle.  We would have arrived at our hotel happy because we would have avoided the taxi line, the taxi fare, and we’d know exactly where their booth was at CES, and probably would have showed up.  At least I know I would have.  Oh and we would have blogged and tweeted about how amazing the company was for helping us out.

Another problem I had when I arrived at CES was that I had no idea where anything was.  Even the few maps I could find were very hard to read, and when I finally found an information desk, they weren’t sure where the conference track was located that I was trying to get to.  So I needed help getting around and figuring out directions, sounds like a great opp for brands such as Garmin and Tom Tom (Who both had exhibits at CES), right?  I think I lost at least 2 hours on Friday simply walking around aimlessly LOOKING for a session or exhibit hall.  If a smart brand could have helped me and saved me those 2 hours, I would have gladly promoted them during the event, and I would be blogging about them right now.

All said, CES is an event that seems to be very hard on first-timers.  I talked to a few CES veterans, and they told me that after you’ve been a couple of times, the event is much easier to navigate.  If I had been able to stay one more day, I probably could have seen a lot of people and things that I missed.  But I did get to see plenty of new and old friends:

If you were at CES, what stuck out to you?  BTW here’s all the pictures I took at CES on Flickr.

PS: For those of you that are interested, here is a link to watch the Citi webcast.  After a quick registration you should be able to view it.  I won’t give it away, but the technology behind the Citi 2G card is VERY interesting and something that will instantly get your attention.  As I told Jeff, credit cards don’t normally get me very excited, but the technology behind the Citi 2G card is obviously a big deal as soon as you see it.  So check it out if you like, but I do have to apologize for not wearing the cowboy hat 😉

Mike Masin January 10, 2011 at 8:41 am

Hi Mack,

Your experience reminded me of COMDEX in the mid 80s. Not enough taxis and too many exhibit miles. After my first time at the show I mapped out the vendors I knew I wanted to visit in advance to optimize my wanderings.


Mack Collier January 10, 2011 at 10:14 am

Mike that is it, I think if I go back to CES, that the next visit will be a lot better simply because I will have a better layout of the event, and won’t waste as much time chasing my tail 😉

Courtney Parham January 10, 2011 at 9:50 am

Wow, I really like the “clean your music files” pic.

How many products did you or friends buy as a result of CES, if any? I would like to get a sense of the effectiveness of the tradeshow on increasing sales amongst attendees.

Mack Collier January 10, 2011 at 10:20 am

Hi Courtney! I honestly can’t see myself buying anything I saw at CES. Then again I was more focused on how the exhibitors were presenting themselves than I was the actual products. For me the marketing and promotional aspects were more interesting.

For example, there was one booth that had a DJ and a couple of guys breakdancing. They were drawing a nice little crowd, but I can’t remember what product they were promoting, and it seemed that as soon as they stopped, everyone left.

Now in the Sony/ESPN example, I think that worked a bit better because ESPN was doing a real segment, discussing tonite’s National Championship game and who they thought would win. But they were also showing game film and giving their opinions of viewing the action with the 3D glasses and on the TV.

As I said in the post, I really wish I’d had one more day to see everything, and focus more on the actual products.

Patrick Reyes January 10, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Mack, biggest thing that stuck out to me…how at a consumer electronics show the lack of connectivity was rampant. We all know the complaints with AT&T but this was really bad. I barely used 3G when I was anywhere near the convention center.

I didn’t just affect me either. I was at some displays where they needed an internet connection but couldn’t do anything because of the slow speeds. If you went to Motorola, they had a SCVNGR promo that I couldn’t do because the service was poor.

There you have it. I’m sure next year will be interesting especially with if Verizon announces something tomorrow.

Shailender @ Valentine Vacation January 11, 2011 at 5:00 am

You had nice experience in your first CES. I have seen all of the pictures which you have mentioned above. It is looking very energetic.

Bruce Sallan January 14, 2011 at 8:46 pm

It sure seems like a lot of work for not alot of gain? I am most curious about all the 3D products. My gut tells me that the 3D thing is not going to work/take-off. We’ll see soon enough. If I’m wrong, maybe I can lose some of my “gut,” as my wife has been begging me to recently. Thx for the update Mack. The typo “hell” instead of “help” may have been subconscious?

Mack Collier January 16, 2011 at 12:54 pm

LOL! Bruce I just caught the typo and think you are right 😉

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