Thoughts and Images from CES 2011

by Mack Collier

Last week I was able to attend CES (The Consumer Electronics Show) for the first time.  I was in town working with TMG on a Citi Webcast for its Citi 2G and Thank You Card programs, and decided to spend an extra day in Vegas to check out CES.  I wanted to see the pretty toys, but also wanted to see some of the marketing tactics that companies were using to drive attention to their setup.  And, of course, I was hoping to meet a few of my friends in the social media space.

The 1st thing I noticed about CES when I arrived at the Convention Center is that I had a LOT of walking ahead of me.  Partly because the show is so spread out, and partly because I am directionally-challenged and couldn’t find anything.  I seriously believe I lost 2 hours on Friday walking in the wrong direction looking for a session or an exhibit hall.  And the fact that CES was an absolute madhouse didn’t help, there were about 3 times as many people as SXSW, confined in a smaller convention center.

After catching a couple of social media sessions, I headed to the exhibit floor.  I quickly learned that almost every exhibit had at least one of the following:

  • A pretty car
  • A pretty girl
  • iPad/iPhone skins

The 3rd one surprised me, but accessories for the iPad and iPhone were the most common products I saw.  Also saw a lot of 3D technology, especially for TVs.

After walking around for a bit, most of the booths started to blend together, and many were setup as having a small desk area where a couple of people were giving info about the products.  But I did notice a few booths that at least had interesting visuals, such as this one for a product that claimed to ‘clean your music files’:

As you might expect, the big brands had huge exhibit spaces and splashy guests.  As luck would have it, I missed the biggest guest of all, as Lady Gaga showed up at the Polaroid booth on Thursday, while I was at The Mirage working on the Citi Webcast.  But I did get over on Friday to the Sony area to see the ESPN crew doing a live remote:

And I think Panasonic had an exhibit space larger than some of the towns in North Alabama.  Probably the coolest thing I saw at CES was this huge sand sculpture that the artist was finishing up as I found it.  Not sure this makes me any more likely to buy a Panasonic product, but it was cool nonetheless:

The biggest problem I had at CES (and it was a problem for a lot of the people I talked to) was getting around and also finding where I wanted to go.  This is where I think companies missed some opportunities for connecting with attendees and influencers.

First, when I landed in Las Vegas, I made my way outside and to the longest taxi line I had ever seen.  I was in this line for at least an hour.  I was updating my movement on Twitter, when @Sue_Anne had a great suggestion:  Branded shuttles.  A company could have provided shuttle runs for 50 or so attendees at a pop, and for the next 15-30 mins, they could give us a commercial for their products while we were on the shuttle.  We would have arrived at our hotel happy because we would have avoided the taxi line, the taxi fare, and we’d know exactly where their booth was at CES, and probably would have showed up.  At least I know I would have.  Oh and we would have blogged and tweeted about how amazing the company was for helping us out.

Another problem I had when I arrived at CES was that I had no idea where anything was.  Even the few maps I could find were very hard to read, and when I finally found an information desk, they weren’t sure where the conference track was located that I was trying to get to.  So I needed help getting around and figuring out directions, sounds like a great opp for brands such as Garmin and Tom Tom (Who both had exhibits at CES), right?  I think I lost at least 2 hours on Friday simply walking around aimlessly LOOKING for a session or exhibit hall.  If a smart brand could have helped me and saved me those 2 hours, I would have gladly promoted them during the event, and I would be blogging about them right now.

All said, CES is an event that seems to be very hard on first-timers.  I talked to a few CES veterans, and they told me that after you’ve been a couple of times, the event is much easier to navigate.  If I had been able to stay one more day, I probably could have seen a lot of people and things that I missed.  But I did get to see plenty of new and old friends:

If you were at CES, what stuck out to you?  BTW here’s all the pictures I took at CES on Flickr.

PS: For those of you that are interested, here is a link to watch the Citi webcast.  After a quick registration you should be able to view it.  I won’t give it away, but the technology behind the Citi 2G card is VERY interesting and something that will instantly get your attention.  As I told Jeff, credit cards don’t normally get me very excited, but the technology behind the Citi 2G card is obviously a big deal as soon as you see it.  So check it out if you like, but I do have to apologize for not wearing the cowboy hat ;)

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