…besides the fact that there are now dozens of hundreds of thousands of types of tablets.
A week ago today, I landed in Vegas with a suitcase, a Nikon, and a mission – explore the Consumer Electronics Show, meet a few folks, wander the halls, and report my findings back to CarWoo.
Below are a few of my findings.
I. You Don’t Need Bags of Money If You Have Buckets of Ingenuity
But there were a few brands without gargantuan budgets who still managed to catch my eye.
Like Voxox, who handed out fliers at the show, telling attendees to look out for the “Voxox Alien.” If you saw the alien, and you were the first person in that half hour period to tell him the magic keyphrase from the flier, you’d walk away with an iphone. I thought this promotion was a unique way to keep Voxox on the minds of CES attendees throughout the show. And the cost of an alien suit, fliers, and a few iphones – probably not nearly the amount many other companies spent on their booth space alone.
Another brand that caught my eye was PriceGrabber.com. I was first drawn to the PriceGrabber booth (which was actually located outside of the exhibit halls) because this seemed to be one of the few companies at the show that, like CarWoo.com, is primarily an online service, as opposed to the developer of tangible electronics or tech products.
Overall, I’m not sure how successful the show was for the site, nor am I sure if displaying at CES is the best move for this type of brand (more on this in III), but what especially caught my eye was the large, brightly-colored, plastic grabber (think “plastic shark from E.T.” but with claws…). This schwag was so large and awkward that dozens of folks asked me about it throughout the day, leaving me to spread the message about PriceGrabber and give impressions to many others who had not visited the booth.
Lesson learned – when possible, give away large, awkward schwag.
II. Book Your Hotel Early
III. Your Brand May Not Belong in a Booth
Okay, the following advice is probably THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I learned at CES – CarWoo! did the right thing in not having a booth there this year. In fact, we may not even be ready to have a booth next year, or the year after that.
In spite of the fact that the “C” and “E” parts of this show are clearly becoming more liberal (I passed a booth selling closeout DVD’s for Pete’s sake), I feel like there are a few key questions that any company considering a booth or outreach at CES should ask themselves before committing.
1) How international are we?
I expected to come across many international visitors at CES, but I didn’t predict that the crowd would be nearly as diverse as it was. According to the CEA, about 30,000 of the 140,000 show visitors were declared International visitors. I’m not even sure if Canadians are counted in that mix (I actually met quite a few Canadians at the show).
Since CarWoo is currently only available in the United State, this means that more than 20% of the impressions we’d be paying for with our time, energy and schwag would be destined for an audience who could not even use our product (unless of course, we simply ignored every international customer who came to our booth. I’m sure that would not generate any poor feelings towards our brand at all.)
2) Would visitors to our booth have something to engage with RIGHT NOW?
It is, after all, a show centered around gadgets. And no matter how bendable some of these rules can be, if your booth doesn’t have fun playtoys, it will not receive much attention from the masses. After this year, I wouldn’t even consider getting a booth at CES unless CarWoo had a nifty application or doodad to display.
Pricegrabber did have an interesting mobile app to show off, so I can see why they made the move to cover CES this year. You just want to make sure that the story you’re creating around your brand is interesting enough to intrigue bloggers and members of the press who are being pummeled left and right with info and apps and tablets and gadgets and more.
3) Can we accomplish the same (or similar) outreach goals by simply attending the conference?
Even though CarWoo didn’t have a booth this year, I think that my presence at CES was extremely helpful to our organization as a whole. Not only did I get to scope the place out for the awesome info above and get to party with some pretty … interesting … folks (see below), but, just as importantly, I got to meet tons of interesting bloggers, techies, Ceo’s, etc. and form relationships with some awesome folks that I may not have met otherwise.
After this year at CES, I’m convinced that pretty much any company that has anything to do with internet tech, social media, or, of course, CE, can benefit from sending an employee or two to conferences such as CES. If you make the effort to go to events and parties outside the conference, you will meet people, and these people will help you meet other people, and so on and so forth. And for a small startup, these relationships can be extremely beneficial in spreading awareness to the right folks.
IV. At the End of the Day, It’s Still Vegas
[NOTE: The awkward Megan hand in that pic can be attributed to the fact that I was trying to display the word "CarWoo.com" on my badge. Instead, I just displayed a funnily bent shoulder and awkward hand. #photofail]
Fellow CES-ers out there – I’d love to hear your thoughts on the show. Did you learn bunches? Think it was a waste of time? Meet your new bffl? Which brands do you think should (and should not) make it a point to be there?