The prospect of returning to CES ignites in many an unmistakable sense of dread and excitement.
Each year, the square footage of the show floor creeps upwards so that there’s now over 2.5 million net square feet of exhibit space to potentially navigate through and get thoroughly immersed (or lost) in.
The act of purposeful curiosity
Each year, the predictions touting what we can expect to see start flooding our social feeds about a month out. Already I can expect to hear about driverless cars (again), different realities (virtual, augmented, and mixed), and we’ll see the latest developments in robotics and Artificial Intelligence. We’ll also see more connected devices and wearables that promise to churn out more data streams about our bodies than ever before. And of course, there will be enormous TV screens.
After all, it wouldn’t be CES without those gigantic booths containing massive, shiny, pixel-packed TV screens that would dwarf a large conference room wall. But as we scan these articles and start to pack our bags for Vegas (don’t forget your flat shoes and mobile phone portable charger), it seems to me that the most important part of going to CES is the act of purposeful curiosity. To actively and consistently question how the latest whirring and blinking gadgets affect our clients and their business goals, and whether those flashing, oddly-named devices are significantly changing the way we live and work must be our goal as we move through the many halls of the convention center.
At OMD, we believe that it is critically important to question everything that we do in order to make our clients’ marketing ever more powerful, effective, and accountable. CES represents a fantastic source of ideas and inspiration for jump-starting how to think differently about the year ahead, and so we go with an open mind and a desire for disruption. Interestingly, it’s been said CES 2017 will be another year of incremental improvements rather than grand revolution. But isn’t that the very definition of ‘innovation’ and the goal of so many marketers?
When I hear that CES is going to reveal the latest advances in Artificial Intelligence, it’s the potentially transformative impact on businesses that I’m most interested in learning about. When I read about the continued expansion of wearables and lifestyle accessories, I want to understand what this means for brand authenticity and purpose; how can I harness and blend different data sets to create the kind of value and utility that builds brand fans? And finally, when I put on yet another VR headset or see the next iteration of AR, I ask myself ‘how this is deepening the emotional connection and quality of brand storytelling?’
Take a tour
CES is only as rewarding as you make it. My advice to those venturing to CES for the first time: take a tour. Curation is key to making sense of the vastness of the various Tech Halls and it takes effort to extract the insights and lessons that will power your brand thinking in 2017. Personally, I’m putting myself in the hands in the expert curators; OMD’s Ignition Factory will guide me through the latest innovations that are changing the way we create and distribute content, so that I can then decide what are the inventions and improvements that I should weave into my clients’ future marketing and communications programs.
Ultimately, we go to CES to see things first, to stay ahead of the competition by asking the smarter questions, and we guide our clients on the innovations that matters most.
To find out more about what has OMD has planned at CES 2017, please visit CES.OMD.COM
Trendsetters and marketers are agog with the self-driving car. To the point that the legislative agenda in the US has been set to consider how to harmonize conflicting state laws at the federal level. The self-driving car was a hot topic at SXSW with Chirs Urmson, project director for Google’s self-driving car team, weighing in on the subject.
The car industry and its innovations around connectivity, autonomy and electricity also stole the show at CES this year. Car Manufacturers foresee, and promise, that self-driving cars will be mainstream within the next decade. Meanwhile, Google don’t seem ready to build their own car (preferring instead to invest in the technology behind autonomy and to explore industrial partnerships), despite the alleged readiness of the public to buy into a new brand not coming from the historic “car-makers club”.
At a consumer level, the car is still a prized possession, the reasons cover the full spectrum of demand and desire, rational and emotional. Buying a car is the second largest purchase for the majority of consumers after buying a house, and 20th-century society has been shaped by transport, cities and infrastructures and economies built around the car. But more conflicting forces are shaping the automotive industry and have car manufacturers concerned about what effect this will have on the next chapter of the industry.
Dwindling desire drivers?
A prized possession maybe, but we are seeing new dynamics emerging in the demand for car ownership, shifting from being a status symbol to a commodity. However this essential product is losing ground, but why? What consumers’ desire in a car is just beyond reach, indeed price is a key factor here, the faltering economy and gap between the rich and the poor seems unbridgeable and growing by the minute, in 2015 62 individuals had the same wealth as 3.6 billion people. Leasing has overtaken from buying as the new form of owning a car in France and accounts for 29% of car usage in the US. The pivotal reason being that people can have greater use of a car, on their own terms and for less money. So why own?
From alternative options to cars, to cars as the last alternative to transport?
This loss of appeal does, however, go deeper than just money. The surge and success of car sharing apps, raising concerns about the effects of fossil fuels on global warming and public health, and fears of road safety are seeing both public authorities and private initiatives proposing sustainable upgrades and consumer-serving alternatives. Already we are seeing the surge of car sharing apps such as Uber, micro payment bikes and rental electric cars and rickshaws in European cities, that aren’t just for tourists.
Beyond Gen Y and Gen Z. As future buyers, are these generations lost to the car industry?
It seems the magic of the car is losing ground with new generations; a sure sign is the year on year decline in model car sales in the toys and games market. This is particularly noticeable in the mature markets of Western Europe and Australia where this dwindling desire is directly correlated to the household possession of a passenger car.
However, a growing area where cars are frequently attracting the attention of Gen Y and Gen Z audiences are video games. Whilst this isn’t the same pattern of play or role of possession, car brands are looking for ways to include their brands and models into games and drive the magic of driving and motor sports, for instance, the recent Grand Turismo Vision initiative.
Reality check: a wake-up call
Will these efforts be enough now that technology companies and, to an extent, OEMs themselves, are claiming that the line between science fiction solutions for a better world and current reality is blurring rapidly? Considering how Chinese children now perceive their highly polluted surroundings.
Expectations for radical solutions to the passenger car are much higher than mere possession – so much so that the most striking feature of visions for major urban developments is that they don’t allow for the passenger car as we know it. Closing the loop, can we assume that the autonomous car will be on our streets in the next few years? Will it appeal to the masses in a way that allows a smooth transition for the car industry so that it can protect its position as a valued brand, employer and economic force?
Autonomous conveys freedom when driverless means a vacuum
Naming showcases what sparks desire. Autonomous or driverless – these terms do not convey the same desires or semantics. Will the realities and propositions the industry wants to convey have the potential to reinvent new desire triggers? Safer, greener but still fun to drive? There is currently a huge disconnect between the real driving experience (traffic, urban landscapes) and how it is advertised (beautiful scenery and empty roads) – a key consideration in a world where the importance of experience is surpassing that of possession. These new desire drivers are already taking shape around connectivity and in-car entertainment – for example, there is an increasing tendency to advertise a car as an extension to your smartphone; cars are becoming a type of app. Taking it further, this means that time wasted in traffic will become time gained for me/us.
Doing vs. having; experience vs. possession
The car is fast becoming the new living room/control centre/entertainment pod – indeed, the car industry is at breaking point, between epitomising self-transportation and owning mobility. This opens up an all-new approach to the journey – when the journey is as much a destination as the destination itself. When the journey is the end product that we need to sell, the ‘how’ becomes richer and we can easily excite the imagination of the future car-owner. Similar to how entertainment has taken over the media-information industry, entertainment may well profoundly reshape the car industry and marketers’ propositions.