Three Big Experiential Tech Takeaways from CES 2018

Google Assistant took over the Vegas Strip, Samsung's "The Wall" is poised to take over our living rooms, and a 73-year record rainstorm couldn't dampen CES 2018.

Every January, the world's greatest gadget makers hightail it to Vegas to show off their latest tech efforts in hopes of being one of the buzz-worthy cool kids at CES. This year would be no different in that sense, but certainly 2018's Consumer Electronics Show would not be without its unexpected moments!

Las Vegas is, for better or worse, a city famous for sun and sand. But on Wednesday January 10th, right in the middle of CES, the entire Las Vegas Convention Center experienced the city's 73-year record rainfall. This rain had caused a power outage throughout the show floor that lasted two hours.

The world's biggest electronics show with no electricity? An ironic way to get things going, but overall just a small hiccup in an otherwise amazing week of immersive content, brand activations, new tech and inspiring visionaries.

Speaking of visionaries...

Cramer happened to be on-site this year to produce live-interviews with some of the conference’s top executives in a custom-built space, the C-Space Influencer Studio, located in the ARIA Convention Center. Thankfully, our set was unaffected by the power outage!

Partnering with James Kotecki and The Kotecki Group, and broadcasting to the CES Facebook page, we lined up an all-star cast of interviewees, including Ty Ahmad-Taylor, VP Product Marketing at Facebook, Jill Cress, Chief Marketing Officer at National Geographic, David Roman, Senior VP & Chief Marketing Officer at Lenovo and Barney Waters, President of K-Swiss.

Check out all the C-Space Influencer Studio videos on the CES website and Facebook page. You’re not going to want to miss the insights gleaned from these forward-thinking executives and brands!

So while we were there to work, we of course couldn't miss the opportunity to get out and really experience the show. Sifting through the lights and buzz, we set out to discover the most exciting technologies unveiled from an experiential marketing perspective.

Three Experiential Marketing Takeaways From CES 2018

If you can get to CES, you should. Words, pictures, and videos really don’t do justice to the excitement surrounding this week in Vegas and the first-hand wow-factor of seeing trends emerge before your eyes on the show floor.

1) AI Assistants Bring Brand Voice To Life

The battle cry echoing down Las Vegas Boulevard during CES was inarguably, "Hey Google!"

Despite the torrential rain washing out their massive outdoor tent for a day, Google still took over the scene in a big way. Front and center was their AI home helper, Google Assistant, and a Snap Spectacles style machine randomly giving away Google Home Minis.

"After having virtually no presence at the show in past years, the company went from zero to 60. Practically no press conference or news release went by without some mention of Assistant. The company played its hand well at the show."Tech Crunch

As Google Assistant demonstrated is awesome hardware integration powers, in everything from TV's to electric bikes, another well known virtual assistant made its own splash. Amazon's Alexa was announced to have native integration in certain 2018 Toyota car models.

From a consumer standpoint, the rate of acceleration and adoption in voice-enabled devices is nothing short of exciting, as the power of possibilities in virtual assistants expands. And from an experiential marketing standpoint, we're about to break new ground.

In the past year of events and experiences, we've seen chatbots cast in starring roles—a meteoric rise made possible by the deep learning revolution and through marketing intentions aimed at automating always-on brand engagement.

As AI-powered virtual assistants continue pushing past the bleeding edge, we will expect to see chatbots and the likes of automated brand engagement explode. The once metaphorical "brand voice," is about to get really real.

2) Smart Cities Are Like Giant Brand Experiences

CES 2018 was in one word, connected. This couldn't be seen more prominently than in this year's smart cities track.

What are smart cities? Highly-connected, data-driven collaborations between the public and private sectors to bridge physical and digital to create more sustainable and livable spaces.

One stepping stone CES highlighted as the way to smarter cities, where connectivity goes uninterrupted, was 5G tech. 5G technology, with multi-gigabit download speeds, will be the baseline for the next wave of life-changing IoT.

And speaking of IoT, one hot topic on the smart cities track was healthcare technologies. Health sensors such as sleep tracking devices were prominent this year and will be an exciting space to watch, despite the obstacles that exist when it comes to healthcare, IoT, and HIPAA compliance.

We always kind of think about events and brand experiences as micro-cities, where urbanization is the year-over-year growth of your event audience, and nothing is more important than community planning. It's cool to see that the event technologies we've been experimenting with for years, are in a big way the catalyst for investments driving real global infrastructure to a smarter, more connected, more data-driven place.

3) Modular LED And Smart(er) Displays Are Coming

The screens get bigger and brighter every year, but this year, brands were delivering content via LED, OLED and QLED like never before. All the major brands, like Google, Mercedes, Toyota, and SONY, were using some sort of massive LED wall in their booth space to immerse the consumer in their brand.

From LED stage-floors at the Intel keynote, the LG hallway-experience, to Ford’s Future-Town, the number of different ways brands utilized LED’s versatility, quality and efficiency was exciting and diverse. LED technology is pure experience fuel and proves over and over again to be one of the best investments an event marketer or brand can make with the end goal of audience immersion.

While Google got the crowds going with their JBL, Lenovo, LG and Sony partnered smart displays, the CES Award for best-LED technology released unanimously goes to Samsung, who debuted the world’s first “Modular Micro-LED Television” called “The Wall”.

What is a modular micro-LED TV? A game-changer, that's for sure. This TV-wall set-up will make use of an entire wall in your home, but the TV will appear as big or small as you want. No, this is not a Transformer from a movie, but it is very close to one!

The un-used screen area can be customized to blend in with the wallpaper surrounding the room or you can have faux-digital furniture/artwork to keep the ‘homey-feeling’. Samsung wants the user to have full ability to customize their content viewing size based on what they are watching.

For example, when watching another episode of Friends, 60’’ should be plenty of TV. If you're watching Avatar, set the screen to 146’’ to completely immerse yourself. Or what if you have family coming over and you don’t want to glue yourself to the TV? Set the screen to wallpaper-mode and have your screen blend into the room. That's what we mean by modular.

And this isn't just exciting for home movies and watching sports. This modular micro-LED TV concept is sure to be seen popping up in trade show booths and exhibit halls in events to come. The ability to go big or small, immersive or focused, is powerful for a marketer when mapping how an attendee will interact with your brand in booth.

It's great to see Samsung finally making the shift from "products" to "solutions" in this capacity. And they weren't the only ones. The entire CES floor experience was less focused on tech gadgets and more focused on benefits that emerging technologies may provide.

Overall, it was a really exciting week, and I know we at Cramer couldn't be more excited about the role these experiential technologies will play in our event marketing eco-system through the year to come. We're certainly ready for 2018 and hope you are too!

Oh, and Sony's Aibo robot dog? Adorable.

Experiential Marketing Trends

Explore the first 30 trends from our collaboration with Event Marketer.

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Brendan Martin

Sales Enablement / Cramer

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Jonathan Ronzio

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