For tech lovers, the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is one of the most highly-anticipated events of the year. Widely recognized as the world's largest technology trade show, the event runs from January 7 to 10, garnering international attention from media, investors, purchasers, and consumers alike, all eager to glimpse the next best thing in the tech world.
The anticipation makes CES an ideal – some would argue necessary – opportunity for upstart brands to make their mark in the competitive tech landscape.
I arrived in Vegas for the show on Sunday and the week has already lived up to its reputation. But with over 3000 exhibitors, the fight for brands to break through the noise is harder than ever.
In addition to big names like Samsung, Toyota and Intel in attendance, there's a growing interest in what these fresh faces are bringing to the table. CES has been highlighting these startups in TechZones, an area designed to feature up-and-coming products, services and companies. Exhibitors in this area showcase a range of technologies, from robotics to mobile technology and beyond. Utilizing the well-established profile of CES, these brands can grow their reach and, ultimately, their business, by positioning themselves as an emerging player in the tech world.
The most innovative products will undoubtedly garner buzz, but there are other ways for newcomers to stand out at this year's CES. Here are four ways:
1. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. At events like CES, online conversations are happening all the time, and if brands hope to get noticed, they must play a part. For smaller brands struggling to keep up with the tech giants, starting a conversation isn't always feasible, but there are valuable credibility points to be won by actively contributing to the chatter.
Find the conversations that influencers are paying attention to and offer relevant insights where appropriate. Most young companies hope to have a long lifespan, and there's no better way to build your brand than with gradual and thoughtful engagement.
2. Learn from the pros. There's no question that the size of CES can be intimidating. Instead of letting the weight of the situation get to you, try to see it as an opportunity to glean insight from the experts. It's at these events that key players are especially active on various social platforms and eager to share their expertise in person, a perfect environment for the small guys to pick up on the strategies and nuances of the consumer tech world.
3. Take an integrated approach. Amidst the tech-forward innovations, it can be easy to overlook the benefits of traditional media coverage. In reality, however, traditional outlets still offer some of the most powerful ways for brands to tell their stories (and are known to seek out strong stories about unexpected players). Many outlets send tech reporters to CES and often broadcast live from the event. Knowing which events journalists are planning to attend and how best to engage them can afford your brand a competitive edge in a crowded space.
4. Keep the conversation going. It's one thing to make a splash at CES, it's another to sustain the momentum. The brands who keep the buzz going after the event will enjoy greater brand awareness and more prolonged product recognition.
CES set the stage for 2014, but companies have the next 12 months to build on that early start. So far, 2014 has yielded innovations such as Bluetooth basketballs, curved TVs and fuel cell vehicles. The big players are in the house. The up and comers are turning heads and taking notes.
How will you make your splash – and how will you sustain it?
Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.