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What does this year's CES tell us about the future of trade shows?

Image via Consumer Technology Association

As the annual tech convention CES draws to a close, *some* fortunate PRs and journalists will have been out to Vegas.

And the rest of us will have sat at home, seething with jealousy / remembering our years out there whilst currently pretending to do Dry January.

As PR continues to evolve, it is clear to see the ongoing evolution too of a ‘tech trade show’ in terms of its communications story.

In the last decade, you can see the likes of CES, MWC and IFA – big moments in tech brands' diaries – changing from being a ‘big announcement and hospitality must-do’s to actually brands having to redefine their strategic view and looking at the value on what they want the outcome to be from a comms perspective.

We’ve seen brands start to pull out of trade shows completely – is that going to be the future? Hard to say but for those attending again, here are six thoughts about this year’s CES and the value (or not) for brands to take forward…

  1. Tell an interesting story on the stage if you have a press conference – you have an opportunity to get the world’s media interested… Step forward BMW this year with Arnie on the stage – love him or hate him, he had a presence this year, stole headlines but importantly told interesting stories that linked to the brand and product narrative the automotive leader wanted to tell.

  2. To ‘press trip or not press trip’ that is the question – ten years ago, you had to be the brand that was taking all the key tech media out to CES and it got a bit of a bunfight about who was taking who. But is the value of taking media out there gone? No, there is certainly a place for it, brands need to build the right media relationships and, yes, it might be a trip to Vegas but that time together ensures you too, as a PR, know what they need for the year ahead.

  3. (Can you) carefully embargo stories of launches – judging by a fair few leaks, who knows? It is the age-old question, and if it was a straightforward route, we’d all do it but it is a risk.

  4. Tell the brand differentiation or quirky stories (where you can) – you don’t need to be a big brand or even a tech brand at CES to get noticed, you just need to storytell right to stand out from competitors. From Yukai Engineering’s anxiety-reducing cushion to L’Oreal’s HAPTA, the first handheld, ultra-precise computerized makeup applicator – every year, there is always something new that you remember.

  5. Think about the multi-channel approach – it isn’t just journalists out there – the speed of getting a story out, is a priority. Brands can win by careful influencer storytelling alongside the media focus with it mirrored on their own channels. Seems obvious, yes. It isn’t always done well.

  6. Real-life events ARE starting to come back, is it safe to? – a question many of us still ask but as the world is – in many places – getting ‘back to normal’ so are events. It will always, however, be up to individuals if they want to attend.

The future of the trade show is one that will be watched. And how brands operate at them.

Article written by Laura Sibley, managing director, Consumer at Brands2Life.

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