The world of tomorrow, as told by CES

CES. A launching ground for new technology. A proving ground for radical ideas and forward-looking innovation. At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, I observed new offers from brands like Under Armour, Sony, Honda, and Segway, but I also saw some repeated trends that will impact the future of branding and technology. Here are the six things you need to know:

1. Multifaceted brands must face the age of fragmentation

If CES made anything clear, it’s that millennials are (still) the center of attention. With behaviors and attitudes more complex than ever before, millennials embody a Rubik’s Cube of competing desires that seem impossible for brands to reconcile. They want content available anywhere at any time, across a proliferation of channels. And yet, they largely access content across just one channel: mobile. They want everything simultaneously: options and choice, but also recommendations and guidance. As a result, brands face a collection of consumer purchase drivers without any underlying unification.

What does this mean for brands? Tomorrow’s winning products and services might not be based on the good ol’ unique selling proposition (USP), but rather on a collection of myriad USPs. And these products and services will be promoted across many channels, ultimately championed primarily through mobile.

2. Marketers will make sense of “too-big” data

Data is becoming available at unprecedented rates, and marketers plan to invest even more in big data in the coming years. The truth is—and they recognize this—marketers are often unsure what to do with this data. How can they transform it into actionable insights and ideas?

CES robot interactive

Since more and more brands will have access to similar pools of big data, culling out standard consumer behaviors won’t be a differentiator. Game changers will be companies with the ability to identify unexpected insights and act on them creatively. To achieve this, they should be looking for hybrid talents that are as excited by big ideas as they are by hard data. People who are both creative and rigorous, those who can drive brands forward.

3. Say goodbye to apps, hello to skills

With increasing use of voice-controlled devices, we will soon move beyond having just apps on our mobile screens. So what’s next? We will begin to truly reap the benefits of on-demand services. As an example, Amazon Echo is bringing to life a new category of apps called Skills. Early examples of voice commands include everything from “Alexa, get me an Uber” to “Alexa, open Johnnie Walker,” which will imbue the user with some critical whisky trivia.

CES VR experience

For brands, this means that the services they provide will become a greater focus and selling point—and in a more interactive way. As digital assistants, AI devices will be taught skills, probably failing initially, but learning along the way to provide more accurate responses that cater directly to consumers’ needs and desires.

4. Storytelling is still king…

Technology is only as good as the brand story it serves. And it all starts with an underlying powerful idea. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are no exception. Though they may be hot at the moment, this year’s CES speakers all agreed that cool tech won’t compensate for poor ideas.

That said, VR opens up a whole new dimension enabling users to connect emotionally with each other—and with experiences that they’re actually living. And they don’t just live these experiences—they can relive them. So far, the best example is the partnership between Hulu and Live Nation leveraging VR as a new storytelling technique to immerse audiences into Lil Wayne’s live performances and lifestyle.

Brands must remember that using the same content as that broadcasted on TV or YouTube won’t make VR more interesting. As a creative medium all its own, VR requires a new approach to storytelling that puts interactivity at the center.

5. …but experimentation is the new queen

Experimentation has the power to become a major catalyst for change within organizations, pushing teams to test new ideas—even if they sometimes fail—as long as they learn. This year’s speakers stressed the fact that developing an iterative approach to product development is key.

CES car innovation

How can brands capitalize on experimentation? By striving to promote a culture where it is mandatory. Establishing an experimentation budget separate from an innovation budget can help brands make iterative trial and error a reality.

6. It’s not either-or, it’s both

In the world of tomorrow, autonomous vehicles won’t completely replace human-operated ones. VR and AR won’t substitute for existing technologies—they will add on to them. Mobile will remain prevalent, but wearables will continue to act as supplementary devices providing additional features and data. New devices will proliferate resulting in multiple channels on which brands can be represented.

CES Wearables

A brand manager’s job will become even more complex, adding new tools, mediums, and requirements to their already expanded arsenals. This will require a more agile and adaptive approach to brand management, where unprecedented levels of control and influence are given to different brand communities. One thing that won’t change: Brands must continue adapting while simultaneously remaining true to who they are.


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