Three Brand Lessons From CES 2022: Turning Your Conference Lemons into Lemonade

Christine at 2022 CES

CES headlineWe all saw the headlines from Las Vegas. Leading brands from Intel and AT&T to Facebook’s Meta and General Motors dropped out ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the world’s largest technology event in January 2022, because of the latest COVID-19 variant. Beyond the exodus of brands, many major media outlets such as TechCrunch, The Wall Street Journal and Gizmodo announced they wouldn’t be sending any of their journalists in person and would be instead conduct all interviews virtually. What’s a marketer to do?

CES 2022 headline

For CES, these iconic technology brands and media outlets are an integral legacy of some of the most jaw- dropping announcements in CES’ past history. With so many elements out of our control, how can brands still make an impact with media outlets and their target audiences at trade shows and other events? Based upon my time on the floor of CES (yes, that’s me behind a mask above), here’s three tips any brand can apply from this most recent trade show.

There’s always a creative solution.

It takes a lot of money and resources to prepare for a conference like CES. But as the cliché goes, even the best laid plans can go astray, especially during a global pandemic. If your brand decides to forgo your traditional booth exhibit, be creative in developing ways to still show up at the conference. Consider renting out a private room at the event location instead; in our experience, conference organizers are willing to go above and beyond to help brainstorm with brands on solutions.

Most importantly, avoid leaving your booth conspicuously empty – during my visit to CES 2022, there were several large brands (who shall remain nameless) whose booths were completely empty. Even if you’re able to have a few signs with a solid call-to-action placed at the booth, it’s still better than having a completely blank space.

Embrace the power of flexibility.

If there’s anything the last two years have taught us, it’s that marketers have to be flexible. There are certain things we can control at events, so focus your efforts on those elements. How can you most easily coordinate media briefings during a conference? Through virtual platforms like Zoom, it’s easy to still build relationships with media. You can share the latest news from your brand and offer trend insights while connecting them with a spokesperson. Create compelling video and other assets to help round out your brand story, making the information as accessible as possible and showcasing how you can be a go-to resource is crucial in building and maintaining these media relationships.

And when reaching out to media during a trade show, be as flexible as possible and ask journalists the following questions:

  • Do he/she/they have a specific platform (Zoom, Teams, etc.) the reporters likes to schedule interviews through? Also make sure you know what time zone the journalists are located in before sending through the calendar invite.
  • What questions does the reporter have for your brand? Are there products/brand assets you can send to them ahead of time?

PRO TIP: Some conferences offer their own in-platform media briefing scheduling platforms; based on our agency’s experience, we recommend forgoing these platforms and booking meetings with journalists directly from Zoom, sending a calendar invite to both the media outlet and brand spokesperson. Zoom’s scheduling functionality offers a better experience and if anything goes wrong from a technology standpoint, it’s easier to troubleshoot.

Bring your brand to life. In an engaging way.

Even though you may not be able to walk media through your planned exhibit, there are effective ways for you to still tell the brand story. If you’re making a product announcement, do you have product demos you can showcase during your virtual media interview? What is the compelling reason for people to stop by? Is there something creative to bring what you’re announcing at the conference to life?

TriNet's People Matter

Source: TriNet’s Twitter

For example, during CES, one of the few brands that I saw a line of people waiting to engage with was TriNet, an HR technology brand which brought in a muralist to take images of attendees and incorporate them into a large-scale art installation. The mural (see it at left) demonstrated that everyone contributes to the whole, which was one of TriNet’s main messages about its HR services. Was it stunty? Perhaps. But did it create talk value at the conference, which included media coverage? Yes!

For more insights into how to transition in-person events to a digital platform, check out our “Virtual Events 101” blog post here:

Is your company in the process preparing to attend and exhibit at a conference soon and trying to decide how to still be impactful in this COVID-19 era? Reach out to our agency – we’d be happy to help!