Ever heard the quote, “Eighty percent of success is showing up”? Don’t believe it…especially when it comes to CES (the International Consumer Electronics Show), held every January in Las Vegas. Making a meaningful impact at CES is of such vital importance to many of our clients that we care enough to tell them, “You can’t put up a booth and call it a show.” Merely occupying space on the floor isn’t enough.  

But, of course, this isn’t your average event.   

At CES – which last year was attended by more than 160,498 attendees and set the stage for more than 20,000 product announcements – brands must be purposefully loud and methodically daring to break through the noise.

The potential for exposure and reach is so great at this proving ground for breakthrough ideas that – although every brand’s strategic and tactical approach to the show will vary – there is one rule of CES prep that applies to each client: Never. Stop. Planning.

In fact, planning for the next year’s CES often begins at the current year’s event, where a loyalty incentive is extended to current exhibitors for securing space at the next annual show. If you haven’t even begun thinking about CES 2015 yet, it’s not too late but it’s definitely time to start. Brands that want to make a statement at CES, and not just an appearance, should be doing and thinking about these things, today:

The Finer Points
Nobody attends CES without having to whack through some weeds.  But if your brand cuts through them now, you can focus on your plan-of-attack while the competition is mired in details come next January. In the CES planning lifecycle, it’s time to make certain tactical moves or you risk efficiencies and dollars.  Create a work back schedule now that includes the following (at a minimum!):

1.       Register. Now is the time to register for CES – it’s free to do so, but that will end.

2.       Book. It pays to book a hotel room, now, even if you think you won’t attend.  You can always cancel, but if you wait, you’ll pay a premium. Also, look into booking floor space immediately if you’re planning to exhibit, because – depending on your booth design – there may be advantages to being in certain spaces.

3.       Learn. Gather basic information, including hotel and transportation tips, the show schedule, and more.

The Big Picture
Attendee demographics, media perspectives and the way brands represent themselves have all evolved as the show’s focus has broadened to showcase the potential of businesses that thrive on, and not only manufacture, consumer technologies. To have the desired impact – whether that’s measured in media touch points, business meetings or brand awareness – brands must strategize early to capitalize on the ever-changing dynamics of CES and determine how to work them to their advantage: 

1.       Attendee makeup. Shifting attendee demographics might impact a company’s decision to attend CES in the first place. An automotive or healthcare brand that five years ago may never have considered CES, might want to take another hard look if, for example, it requires technology partnerships in order to innovate within its field.  Companies interested in modernizing their customer communications and capitalizing on big data, regardless of industry, could also rationalize attendance for the swell of brands sharing digital marketing insights at the show.

2.       Media relations. Even if the news you want to share evolves between now and the time of the show, it’s smart to consider timing, outreach, format and venue for a potential announcement, today. Before you know it, the holidays will be here and it’s notoriously challenging to catch reporters as the show nears. We’ve advocated for sharing high-level announcement details with select priority members of the media months in advance, especially if it’s a conversation that can be revisited and sustained through show time. The volume at CES is so loud that many businesses opt to hold proprietary press events in close proximity, but prior, to CES week. On-site media briefings the weekend prior to show launch are another way to capture the attention of key media without a lot of competing distractions.

3.       Brand representation. Again, purposeful volume is key to getting a brand heard. Audacious (but strategic) moves at CES – like last year’s traffic jam caused by our client Parrot’s dancing drones – showcase a brand’s creativity and confidence. Approachable and engaging booths that immerse visitors in product detail and brand personality communicate that a business is there to engage, not merely display. A proprietary ancillary cocktail event for key media, customers and partners demonstrates that a brand is hungry and willing to work for relationships. And these things take time.

In fact, all of these things take time, and are worth every extra day you spend going after them. Manage your CES tactics and strategies now to reap the rewards of the world’s largest celebration of consumer technologies, later.