With 2,700 companies about to vie for the attention of 126,000 people across 1.5 million square feet of meeting space, all at the same time over four frenetic days, next month’s International Consumer Electronics Show promises to be a gizmo dog-and-pony circus worthy of being held in the so-called Entertainment Capital of the World.
From Jan. 6-9 in Las Vegas, hot models and even hotter A-list celebrities will share the show floor with branded tchotchkes and convention totes to carry them in, all to attract attendees to a company’s booth, meeting room, or special event.
CES has proven that with the right product and marketing strategy, it’s not how much space you take up, but what you do with it. Asked to cite a company last year that made a splash despite modest physical show presence, Tara Dunion, senior director of communications for the show-hosting Consumer Electronics Association, named Parrot, a wireless device company that debuted its iPhone-controlled A.R. Drone quadricopter at the CES Unveiled press event.
“The buzz they generated at that one event put them on the map,” Dunion said. “They got a tremendous amount of play and the buzz brought hordes of people to their booth.”
On the opposite side of the spectrum were Panasonic and Monster that spent big bucks beyond having elaborate booths on appearances by pop sensation Lady Gaga. Rumors are flying that Lady Gaga will show up again, and Monster has in fact booked Earth, Wind & Fire to headline its annual Monster Retailer Awards and Concert.
What companies going to such great and expensive lengths are hoping for, obviously, is that people stick around and get informed.
The companies that do it right grab them with a compelling draw and keep them to actually hear the business message,” Dunion said.
Intel will be among the 2011 CES exhibitors, occupying 12,000 square feet of prime real estate in the Central Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center where Intel will unveil and showcase its 2nd Generation Intel Core processor family. Adding to the cost will be a celebrity appearance at a special event if negotiations are successful. Although Intel has dipped into the celebrity world’s talent pool over the years to make a bigger splash at CES keynotes and parties, the company will focus its spotlight this year on Booth #7153.
“We want our products and people to be the celebrity,” said Victor Torregroza, Intel’s program manager for a 10th straight CES. “We don’t want to be yet another company giving out a lanyard, a pen, a squeeze ball. There are a lot of tire kickers who attend who just want a gift. They don’t want your product, your message or you.”
Celebrities at the booth? “Not necessary,” he said. Food? “It makes a mess.”
For Intel, it’s about having products at CES that are relevant and being innovative in how they are staged.
“You need to cater to significant types of people,” Torregroza said. “You have people who want to talk to the engineer or product marketing person. You also have people who want more of an experience. And you have to offer something that resonates with press, social media and other influencers.
Torregroza said the Intel booth is designed to “surprise and delight, engage and inform.” With those four words, he said, an emotional connection with key attendees is likely.
The CEA is expecting attendance to be flat to slightly higher from last year’s 126,000 figure.
“The show is looking extremely strong,” Dunion said. “We came back to health attendance-wise last year, but we’re not yet at the level of 2006 when we had 152,000 and 1.69 million square feet.”
Record attendance or not next month, that’s still a lot of people to woo.
“If you want the most grandiose display you can get that, and some that can’t afford to do a compellingly visual booth will get just a meeting room, Dunion said.
Intel and other companies spend millions for a presence at CES, and are anxious to show off their best products in a way that attracts the most visitors.
“The average CES attendee attends only two or three other trade shows a year,” Torregroza said. “Whatever new product, benefit or technology we want to show, we have to go the extra mile.
Make that the “extra extra mile,” he added, noting that with Intel being an ingredient brand, meaning it doesn’t sell its products directly to consumers, a greater challenge exists to pique the interest of an attendee who might only give the booth one ear or one eye.
Among those successfully piqued over the years include Bill Gates and Jeffrey Katzenberg from the CEO world, Morgan Freeman, Tom Cruise and wife Katie Holmes from Hollywood, comedians Sinbad and Tom Arnold, and recording artists MC Hammer and Steven Tyler.
Famous and otherwise, an estimated 68,000 people visited Intel’s booth last CES. The space was 25 percent smaller than previous years, and yet still took top honors in its category by Event Marketer Magazine. For the upcoming CES, Intel is going back to its more customary 12,000-square-foot space.
Besides showcasing the visual experiences of its newest Intel Core processors, to be announced at the show January 5th, Intel will display Atom processor-powered devices, including smart TV products, home automation devices, netbooks and tablets from leading manufacturers.
“What works best is when you involve people,” Torregroza said, citing as a prime example a dance booth in 2007 where participants “multiplied their groove” by making a multi-camera commercial for the then-new Intel Core 2 Duo processor. More recently, a demo run on a single Intel Core i7 processor had two 7-foot screens displaying 576 cubes hooked up to 20,000 information sources, including 20 live video feeds. When a cube was touched an infobox displaying that content opened up. “Many said it was the most spectacular demo at the 2010 CES,” Torregroza said, hopeful that 2011 CES will also be met with rave reviews.