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CES 2012: Connected Consumers, Connected Homes

  |  January 12, 2012   |  Comments

What the newest products and trends in consumer technology mean for marketers.

ces-2012Marketers flocked to CES 2012 in Las Vegas this week to check out the latest gadgets and see what promise they hold for brands looking to connect with consumers. Media centers, smartphones, tablets, ultra notebooks, OLEDs, 3D TVs, and smart appliances (once again) were on display.

What's really new? And what really matters to marketers?

Weighing in below are Organic's Todd Drake, GroupM Search CEO Chris Copeland, and IPG Lab's Chad Stoller and David Rosenberg.

Brands Missing Opportunities

Todd Drake, VP, technology, Organic: Amid the maelstrom of spec-wars, mountains of fractionally different tablets and phones, and endless walking past booth demos that is CES, a couple things struck me.

First, CES is becoming much more important to marketers, agencies, advertisers, and end-customers, rather than distributors and buyers as in the past. But only a few of the bigger electronic brands were really able to tell a convincing, human-centered story around why their products were important, rather than just really neat-o. The tech is cool, but if you're just talking about how very interesting it is that your dishwasher can connect with Facebook, rather than how that solves a human need, you're missing an opportunity to connect with that wider audience. The best brands had a strong clear statement of their "why," that they used to tie all the products on offer together.

Second is that as the recent innovations in networking standards, content sharing, and cloud storage settle down and become standard kit, the user experience of your product becomes - again - the single important factor. For example, everyone had a converged media center, with pretty much the same features. The ones that were beautiful and highly usable, however, stood way out.

Third, brands need to realize that all their content - YouTube, TV, etc. - are going to be converged on the device. Time to get real savvy about your content ecosystem across all the platforms, and how it all will work together on these converged media platforms.

Technology tends toward commodity, but the experience of that technology remains your differentiator. And if your product solves real human needs in a beautiful way, and you can tell a great story about how it's important to be solved, you're way out front. And if you understand your brands deeper "why," you can more easily tell that story, and generate new ideas and products for your customers in a crowded market.

Apple's iPad, Prevalent Without Being Present

GroupM Search CEO Chris Copeland: CES, as always, is a sensory overload filled with what's hot today in the Central Hall and the dreams of thousands in the South Hall of what will be hot tomorrow. The glitz starts with the barrage of TVs from LG, Samsung, and Sony. A veritable alphabet soup of OLEDs, 3Ds, and 4Ks showcasing what's to come and that doesn't even begin to touch upon the smart TVs and applications. No device is more prevalent without being present than the Apple iPad. The connected home experience is largely showcased off the device while some manufacturers look to demonstrate their ability to work across the complete spectrum. That spectrum now includes ultrabooks aiming to be something more than tablet, less than desktop or laptop, but versatile enough for average consumers.

Beyond the sheer scale of CES, one challenge is becoming clear: Unilateral consistency is often unattainable. While TV manufacturers have finally aligned on 3D glasses and other interface technology, there's still a lot of differentiation being developed at the cost of uniform overlays. For advertisers this means more versions required to achieve the reach desired. For the home consumer, 3D printing technology and pricing is more attainable than ever. And the space built around technology popularized by the Microsoft Kinect system is being applied in a myriad of different ways for the benefit of consumers beyond gaming.

Cookies for the Real World

IPG Lab Managing Partners Chad Stoller and David Rosenberg: Until recently, the digital space has offered a host of measurement capabilities and tracking that couldn't exist in the physical world. However, audience measurement tools like facial recognition, eye-tracking, and WiFi sensors are helping to level the playing field. It is now possible to track how many people are in or near the store, or the gender and age range of customers staring at their digital signage. The metrics gathered from these tools will help companies better understand their consumers and make decisions that increase revenue.

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Anna Maria Virzi

Anna Maria Virzi, ClickZ's executive editor from 2007 until 2012, covered Internet business and technology since 1996. She was on the launch team for Ziff Davis Media's Baseline and also worked at Forbes.com, Web Week, Internet World, and the Connecticut Post.

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