The Consumer Electronics Show PR and Marketing – The Antithesis Of Social Media Judo

Every year during first part of January, tech companies descend on Las Vegas for the annual ritual known as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).  From a marketing standpoint, this is where all the electronics buyers go to plan their retail purchases for the year, and it makes sense.  From a blogger and social media effectiveness standpoint, it is colossal madness to say the least.

If you are not familiar, it is a massive technology trade show.  Over 150,000 people and well over 10,000 exhibitors all choke Vegas to a stand-still in hopes of having their latest gadgets and gizmos noticed by the buyers, press and bloggers that also come in waves.  Having witnessed this spectacle many times, including this year, I can tell you it is overwhelming and it is the same every single year – without exception.

Let me see if I can break it down for you into a few basic steps:

  1. Just about every company pre-announces their products in the days and sometimes weeks before CES – the irony of ironies is that this is done to avoid all the “noise of CES.”
  2. Virtually all 10,000 plus companies frantically spam email press releases and invites to their booth/suite/party/event to every blogger they can find who might be attending CES.
  3. While there, they show off what everyone was expecting and attempt to get as much coverage that week as possible for (AND THIS IS IMPORTANT) a product that will not be on store shelves for months.

Do you see the problem yet?

Because you are reading this blog, my guess is that you are trying to get more social media with less effort and expense, i.e. Social Media Judo (SMJ).  Simply put, there is almost no effective way to compete and outgun 10,000 plus other companies all trying to do the same thing at the same time.

I know the argument: we need to be there; the buyers are there and we need to get our message out.  The problem is that the budget to attract the press and bloggers is massive in this environment.  But getting a return on your blogger investment is almost impossible as you have the same goal as everyone else at the show.  In Vegas-speak, the odds of winning at this game (even for large companies with truly groundbreaking products) makes this a sucker’s bet.

Now, think of it from a bloggers perspective to see why:

  • Only a small portion of bloggers can attend these events due to the numerous scheduling conflicts and therefore have to pick and choose usually by convenience or locale.
  • Running around to all the events/suites wastes half their time in transit, as most people at CES have to wait up to an hour or more for a cab or even to get on the monorail from the convention to the strip – not to mention the time it takes to walk through the casino from the cab drop-off to the suite.
  • If you want bloggers to visit your booth they have to be able to find it, and that is not an easy task.  Exhibits are spread over literally fifteen miles of convention space at four separate venues – plus they usually see things that side track them on the way.
  • A lot of companies also attend press/blogger only events such as CES Unveiled, PEPCOM’s Digital Experience and others where there over 100 table-top booths to visit in just 3 or 4 hours – most of the time I get through about half the companies before time runs out.
  • As a blogger, you have 4 days to pump out as much content as possible for your blog – therefore  you can really only scratch the surface of the few companies/products you find interesting.

Now, think about it from a budget standpoint.  The costs for CES events created just for the press and bloggers add up fast with internal and external marketing and PR people, hotel rooms, incidentals, venue costs, equipment and other costs.  In fact, many companies wind up spending in excess of $200,000 or more just for press and bloggers alone.

There is a more effective way.

For this cost, you could fly 50 to 100 bloggers and press into your company’s headquarters for a 2 day deep dive on everything about your firm and its technology later in the year.

This has several benefits over and above the “damn the torpedoes” approach of CES:

  1. Your coverage is not competing with virtually every other tech company in the world.
  2. After CES, the news cycle dies down to almost nothing and you could almost own most of the blog traffic at a time when they need something to write about.
  3. It costs a lot less and enables you to create brand evangelists – not just get quickie posts during the busiest time of the year.
  4. The depth of coverage on the blogs and press is exponential since company deep dives give the bloggers the content and perspective to cover your technology and products from all angles.
  5. It is a springboard to working with the bloggers to build better products, help support existing ones and leverage their readers for instant feedback.
  6. We have used this approach to displace competitors as well as their newly announced products – which usually gets them off their game plan as they try to combat your judo move.
  7. And perhaps the best reason of all, depending of timing, you could have your event closer to your products ship date and actually drive sales of a shipping product and deliver real social ROI.

To be clear, I am not saying don’t do PR for the bloggers at CES.  Rather, do it with maximum effectiveness.  Cut out the big blog and press events and focus on being opportunistic.  In years past, we have run shuttles for the bloggers, created blogger-only lounges with the bandwidth they need (http://www.cntrstg.com/) to post, and many other judo-type activities.

CES is a madhouse.  But saving some of your budget and resources for when your products are shipping as well as building real evangelists and getting more posts with greater depth is well worth it!