Kandao Obsidian Camera, CES Innovation Award Winner 2017
The Consumer Electronics Show or CES is the world’s largest annual gathering in the consumer electronics industry. There are two CES events in 2019 – CES, 8 to 11 Jan (Las Vegas) and CES Asia, 11 to 13 Jun (Shanghai).
For the upcoming CES event in Jan 2019, an estimated 190,000 people will arrive in Las Vegas, USA, to seek, shop for and promote the hottest new consumer electronics products at CES. There are going to be around 4,500 exhibiting companies who seek to use this event as a launchpad for their latest products. As for CES Asia, attendance has grown 63 percent since its inception in 2015.
There are certainly a lot of eyeballs – potential partners, distributors, press members, influencers, customers – at both CES events. But for brands new to this international stage, it is a battle to find a niche and build brand buzz when competing against global powerhouse brands who have enormous booths costing over a million dollars and provide fantastic giveaways. This article focuses on three tips for international brands to stand out at CES even with a relatively modest budget. In particular, I recommend targeting the CES Innovation Awards, organizing a successful crowdfunding campaign and preparing a targeted media outreach plan.
CES Innovation Awards
The Innovations Awards are a unique calling card to differentiate brands and demonstrate that your products are among the world’s best. To provide a first-hand insight on how to give your brand a chance of winning these awards, I interviewed Christophe Branchu (France) and Julien Gueuning (Belgium), co-founders of JU&KE Design Studio based in Shenzhen as their client (Kandao) has won a total of four CES and CES Asia Innovation Awards in 2017. An important point to note is that CES and CES Asia have separate awards and brands need to make two separate applications to be considered. Though the award winners for CES 2019 has been announced, your brand may register for CES Asia 2019, and seek consideration at a later stage for awards.
JU&KE Studio was co-founded in 2016 after Christophe and Julien met in Shenzhen, known as the global Silicon Valley of Hardware that is tightly integrated with an advanced manufacturing ecosystem. Christophe began this interview by sharing the selection criteria of the Innovation Awards for both CES and CES Asia:
1. Engineering qualities
2. Aesthetic and design qualities
3. The product’s intended use/function and user value
4. Unique/novel features and features that consumers would find attractive
5. How the design and innovation of this product directly compare to other products in the marketplace
Kandao Obsidian Camera, CES Innovation Award Winner 2017
According to Julien, JU&KE were privileged to partner Kandao, who was seeking to update an existing VR camera prototype to participate in both CES and CES Asia 2017. “The CES shows are a terrific platform for brands to launch themselves on the world stage”, said Christophe, adding that, “It was a mutual match as we partnered Kandao end-to-end to design a fantastic high-performance product. Kandao’s VR camera comes with 6 fisheye lenses arranged in a hexagonal layout. We decided to name the product “Obsidian” to match the color and also designed a fresh brand logo and packaging.” As JU&KE is one of the few international design studios located in Shenzhen, this facilitated a close partnership with Kandao where all communication was done within the same time zone and personal visits were made to the production line to better control design outcomes. This attention to detail paid off handsomely as Kandao became a CES Best of Innovation winner in the Digital Imaging product category.
Kandao logo inspiration – A “Play” button and “K” for Kandao
Julien commented that “Winning this award provides far greater exposure and access at CES. For example, a special showcase area is made available to showcase winning products. Your brand is also invited to CES Unveiled, where hundreds of members of the media mingle with Innovation Award winners and preview their products. This gives your brand a good chance to reach beyond CES attendees and gain valuable earned media publicity.” However, this successful design required careful advance planning. Julien indicated that a three months lead-time is required for the end-to-end planning done for Kandao where a prototype was already available. If there’s no prototype to start with, then the lead-time goes up to six months.
Responding to a query about CES Asia, Christophe commented, “We have noticed a growing trend where more international brands are participating in CES Asia for the first time. Many of these brands are already familiar with China as their products are benefiting from the high-quality design and manufacturing in Shenzhen. Brands are now quickly recognizing that though these products are born in China, they are consumed by the world.”
Another way to differentiate brands from the CES pack is to indicate that your product has successfully attracted significant funding support on an international platform such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter. There are two reasons why crowdfunding success helps to raise brands to the eye level of CES attendees and beyond:
(1) It provides a relatively objective way of assessing a product that attracts potential customers, partners, and journalists who are seeking to discover fresh and innovative products at the CES exhibitions. This effect is definitely attractive to start-ups as well as companies who have just started internationalizing as they lack a strong brand name. In recent years, this crowdfunding effect is starting to attract established brands who do not need to raise funds. According to David Mandelbrot, Indiegogo CEO, “We’ve had campaigns from companies like Procter and Gamble, Honeywell, and Bose. They’re big, public companies. They don’t need to raise funds. But they’re using Indiegogo to validate the products coming out of their innovation divisions and launch those products to an audience they can engage with directly.” In terms of an Asian brand example, Anker’s sub-brand Nebula has also successfully raised $1.2 million for a mini-projector by Nov 2017, in time for January’s CES 2018.
(2) Crowdfunding platforms have been rapidly evolving, with the largest platforms helping brands beyond the crowdfunding phase, and providing opportunities to scale, e.g. order fulfillment in target markets. CES offers an opportunity to meet these potential partners and spark off win-win collaborations. David revealed that 40 percent of Indiegogo’s transactions are cross-border. He also pointed out that Indiegogo partners Ingram Micro on order fulfillment in the U.S and that some of its clients had secured brick-and-mortar distributors such as Target.
Targeted Media Outreach
Press outreach may sometimes be overlooked by first-time CES exhibitors as they are so focused on the event itself. This is a big mistake as the target audience for your brand goes beyond the exhibition attendees: CES 2018 received 107,120 media mentions, on top of generating 49 million Snapchat live views, and around 1 million #CES2018 and @CES Mentions.
You can be sure that apart from hustling for customers, every company on the CES show floor will be seeking media attention to spread their brand story. So how can brands prepare ahead of this event? Let’s start with what international journalists are looking for and the types of pressure they face. Mike Butcher, a TechCrunch editor, reports getting some 500 emails per day, and he only takes a few seconds to decide whether to read the entire email. Therefore, it’s critical that any communication to the press be about news, not self-promotion.
Of course, the best-case scenario is to attract journalists to approach your brand and ask specific questions that are interesting to their readers. Therefore, it is important to time your outreach. Monthly print publications are doing their CES roundups long before the show, while some online news outlets patrol the show floor with cameras for same-day coverage. As a reference, Kandao had sent a press release two months ahead of the CES event when their Innovation Award win was announced. This helped gain the attention of the relevant journalists who needed to start work ahead of the actual event.
Another best practice is to prepare a media kit that can be found on your brand’s website. Media kit materials should include a one-page corporate overview, press release materials, product specifications, product images, team/executive bios, and the company logo. This helps busy reporters report on your company more quickly without doing additional research!
Finally, it is advisable to seek help especially when your brand is new to the international arena. By approaching a well-known press release distribution network such as PR Newswire, your brand may evaluate the various options such as finding and pitching to the journalists that cover your technology niche as well as organizing a “live” press conference on the show floor.
PR Newswire offers services such as press release distribution to your targeted destinations as well as content creation services to help you craft stronger messages to reach your target audience.
It isn’t mutually exclusive to win a CES Innovation Award, organize a successful crowdfunding campaign AND woo the press to cover your brand. In fact, it is definitely easier to attract media coverage if journalists spot a unique differentiator such as an Innovation Award or a successful crowdfunding campaign!
Click here to view releases distributed with regards to the upcoming CES 2019 event.