CES Marketing Tools To Connect Exhibitors, Industry Gurus

As the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) prepares to get underway in Las Vegas next month, show organizers have come under pressure to put creative marketing tools in place that connect with the 140,000 industry gurus and the thousands of exhibiting companies planning to attend.

Organizers looking to increase marketing online aim to brand the event by connecting with those who are growing up with digital technology. "Apple created the subculture for everything 'i,' and, similarly, CES has created that one major event where the world gathers to learn about consumer electronics," says Dan Cole, vice president of business development at the Consumer Electronics Association, which organizes the CES.

"I have encouraged our marketing team to engage in social networking, maybe form a group on Facebook. We have a blog, but there's a whole generation moving in that was born into an era that uses social network technology, and they are the future exhibitors and attendees."

Technology shows don't get much bigger than CES. This year, organizers are promoting the event with the promise that entertainment and technology have finally merged in everything from home appliances and theaters to TVs, cell phones and clothing.

Highlighted at this year's show is the ability to transfer digital media from MP3 player to cell phone to flat-screen television to car audio system. "We call that content shifting--the shifting of content through time and space at the whim of the consumer," Cole says.

Many companies are building devices and services around that concept. NBC Universal plans to set up a broadcast station to stream content from this year's CES, for example, which demonstrates the convergence of media content and electronics, Cole says. Sony Pictures Television's advertising slogan, "anytime, anywhere on any screen," describes the CES that will take place in January.

The show's pre-events begin on Jan. 5, but the show floor--with dazzling lights that decorate booths costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to assemble and to build in promotions--doesn't open until Jan. 7. Rather than companies trying to market their wares and services, Cole says more attendees will see a nice lineup of devices that actually work, from wireless to automotive to audio/video to mobile electronics to robotics--over 1.83 million square feet of convention center and hotel showroom floor decked out with advertising and marketing gismos and gadgets.

Those techies will get a change to see Yoko Ono in a special guest appearance. CES will host a John Lennon songwriting contest featured on a magic bus that has been traveling around the country to promote the event. The bus plans to make a stop at the show.

Most marketing occurs during the show, but this year more than 50% of all exhibitors have tapped into Smart Booth to take advantage of promoting their products and services to attendees prior to the show. CES has offered the Web-based tool for three years, but it never really caught on. The online application not only promotes the exhibitor's attendance at the show, but also captures such data as the company type and business title of attendees who search for information.

The data comes from attendees who access MyCES to plan the types of companies and products they want to see at the show. Exhibitors don't gain access to the searcher's name, but they do gain access to the company name and business title.

"It's all in the name of ROI, which exhibitors claim becomes more important every year," Cole says. "The return on investment has become critical for exhibitors, so Smart Booth provides them with an analytical report on how many people searched on their company, and where they were from."

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