Five learnings for marketers from CES 2016

CES 2016: Initiative's chief strategy officer Sarah Ivey looks at the trends behind the tech
CES 2016: Initiative's chief strategy officer Sarah Ivey looks at the trends behind the tech

The Consumer Electronics Show will wrap up today (8 January), but it can be difficult to sort genuine innovation from the fads. Sarah Ivey, global chief strategy officer at Initiative, breaks down the trends behind the tech.

Machine language fuels the art of conversation

With Siri leading the way, the human voice has become a force in marketing. Earlier in the week Ford unveiled a partnership with Amazon which will see the car giant exploring how a connected car could talk to an Amazon Echo home automation hub with its Alexa voice service, allowing users to start the car, turn on the lights in their home, open the garage door, and so on.

People's imaginations have been spiked by pop culture moments such as Ex Machina and Her – so the idea that machines could know your feelings and preferences is very real.

Implications for marketers:
These technologies are strongest when they are either linked to a clear commercial offering – such as Alexa knowing what you've forgotten from your regular grocery list - or when they're unexpected.

Anyone who has asked Siri to calculate zero divided by zero knows how awesome – and human – those moments with technology can be. 

In the eye of the beholder

Our world is getting more visual and VR was a big topic of conversation over the last year.

GoPro is doing some really interesting work in the 360 camera space – from its Ultimate Immersion project with Kolor, to the more expensive 16-camera Odyssey virtual reality rig.

Though marketers have struggled with how to apply VR outside of immersive events or gaming, it is clear that the demand for aesthetically engaging content that is ultimately underlining this trend is more important than ever.  And the key point is that these abilities are not the realm of the pro but in the hands of the consumer. 

Implications for marketers: Consumers have more tools than ever before – 360 cameras, applications, visualisations – to make their world more beautiful. So why wouldn't they expect that from brands?

Aesthetics and design - how your brand looks from all angles and through all experiences - are more important than ever.  Witness this week’s total redesign of McDonalds packaging – a perfect example of how to change your brand perception without actually changing the product itself.                          

Brains on wheels 

One of the most exciting areas to watch is the evolution of the car. This is not just about navigation, or applications, or entertainment – it's about the major leap that automotive is about to take.

Driverless cars are very close to being a reality in the wired city, but the likes of start-up Faraday Future, which unveiled its electric car, FFZero1, to a select audience this week, take advantage of the emerging and urgent need to convert to electrical transportation. Driverless, single passenger, long or short distance, passive or active, the car as computer – an application on wheels – is nearly here. 

Implications for marketers. It's simple – in a world of driverless cars, passengers will have a lot more time on their hands while on the road. Look to the car to emerge either as a productivity space or an entertainment space, while drivers transform their media habits into those of commuters. We could even see a positive impact on more traditional media such as out of home.

Playing the long game in TV

Normal "technology statements" coming out of CES tend to focus on the latest and greatest in home theatre in TV - and certainly the 4K viewing experience is truly one of the sensory delights of the show.

This year it's less about device and more about content. The race is on for 4K content providers to match both the entertainment and the visually gorgeous experience that 4K provides. But what's interesting is the level of attention paid to Netflix' keynote at the show – Reed Hastings, co-founder of Netflix, which is now the leading OTT content provider, cited stats such as 70m household users clocking up a total of 42.5bn viewing hours for 2015.

Thanks to its streaming service viewers are able to control how much of a series they watch, resulting in a new "binge-watching" style of TV viewing. Traditional TV viewing habits are now a thing of the past, with the viewer having more control than ever on everything from what, where and how they watch shows.

OTT is truly becoming a global experience, which poses some long-term challenges for brands - how do you advertise in a world where TV copy doesn't exist?

Implications for marketers: Video as a branding format is unbeatable for emotion and to tell brand stories. While many brands have gone into the publishing game, with branded content seeded on all the right platforms, the continuing cord-cutting in TV begs the question - should product placement be reconsidered as a more long-term brand building strategy?

How do OTT content and brands build each other? Better call Saul and ask.

The human UX

One of the most interesting areas of debate and speculation is where interfaces across the senses will evolve next. As I have noted above, the spoken word is an emerging area, but as anyone who has used the technology knows, sometimes they don't pick up subtleties of language.

Gesture control is a UI trend that is growing in popularity, (think Microsoft’s Kinetic gaming features) yet the fact that many gestures vary from culture to culture will always hinder universal adoption, particularly if it is to become intuitive rather than learnt.

In an interesting CNET panel on Wednesday, the panellists discussed how the biggest areas of potential growth are not only gesture recognition but also eye-tracking, proximity-based control and biometric feedback that responds to the changes in your physiological state.

While all these may still be a very long way from mass adoption, they nevertheless point to a future where our devices will no longer passively wait for our commands, but will actively use contextual data to anticipate our needs and serve us before we even lift a finger.

Implications for marketers: One of the most important distinctions marketers must make as multi-sensory interfaces evolve is the role consumers want their brand to have passively, to the consumer’s role in actively choosing their brand experience.

A perfect example is Intel’s Oakley sunglasses that give you workout advice and encouragement via an ear piece.  Reading this mix right - the balance of anticipating the consumer's unspoken needs with allowing them to exercise maximum control over their brand experience - is what consumers have been wanting for years. The brand that gets that right wins.

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