5 CES Experiential Tech Activations That Raised the Bar for Exhibit Design and Brand-Building
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has always been the barometer of what’s trending in face-to-face marketing. At this year's show in Las Vegas, held Jan. 5-8, the the fast-changing experiential marketing landscape made it that much more exciting to see how brands chose to tell their stories and build connections at CES 2023–particularly through compelling and immersive tech activations at exhibits.
Among the key themes on the show floor, Tom Maher, director of strategy and growth for Pinnacle, an experiential marketing agency, pointed out the rise of active solutioning, where demos go beyond selling a product’s features and benefits to enabling customers to tailor a solution to their needs.
“It’s a powerful pre-sales mechanism, allowing the customer to truly envision the possible impact of making the solution on offer part of the way they do business,” he said.
Maher also noted the growing importance of quantifying reach and broader adoption of footfall and dwell-time tracking, heat mapping and passerby impressions, in addition to traditional business metrics, as brands are now looking for a much higher level of measurement.
Meanwhile, artificial intelligence (AI) will become a major force in shaping the future of exhibits and face-to-face marketing in general, Maher expects.
“From text-to-image visualization (Midjourney, Stable Diffusion and DALL-E) for exhibit design inspiration to AI booth staff and more intelligent/responsive demos (ChatGPT) and post-event marketing automation, AI is making inroads into marketing and design in a big way, and exhibits will see a fair share of change in the coming years.”
Here are five CES exhibits that led the way in next-level tech experiences at this year’s show.
The floor is … ocean! As attendees entered SK Group’s dark tunnel lined with screens, the world landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty, the Sphinx and Big Ben, around them disappeared into the rising ocean, depicting the grim consequences of climate change. This unnerving experience was juxtaposed with a brighter future built with low-carbon technologies the Korean energy-to-telecom enterprise is bringing to a wide range of products. Attendees could go for a virtual ride in a life-sized air mobility simulator that showcased SK’s AI semiconductor’s applications and see a living space where carbon reduction technologies are commonplace. A massive splash wall and corresponding touch screens made it easy to learn about the future of cities powered by net-zero energy sources.
What might have initially seemed like a calming forest break from a busy showfloor was actually a meticulously created escape room experience based on “Knock at the Cabin,” an apocalyptic thriller by M. Night Shyamalan. Leveraging Canon technologies, Shyamalan has created a mixed-reality experience where attendees can explore scenes from the movie, including picking up on clues around the exhibit, conversing with IA version of intruders and barricading the cabin’s door with virtual furniture to make a run for it. The eeriness and the thrill were more than real in the exhibit that blended the line between brand storytelling and an immersive movie trailer.
High-tech industrial equipment manufacturers are no strangers to CES, but arguably the crowd favorite this year was Caterpillar and their 110-ton Cat777 off-highway truck, a massive—as in 20 feet tall—selfie opportunity and a showcase of the company’s advances in mining and construction technologies. Attendees could climb into the cab and also into the bed of this huge vehicle and participate in AR experiences about various industries and vehicle types. On the ground, they could remotely operate a Cat large dozer and an excavator in real-time hundreds of miles away.
Turkish global tech brand Togg showcased its vision of the future with the “Digital Mobility Garden” experience anchored by Beyond X, an immersive digital tunnel with Saturn, Jungle, Futuristic City and Artistic Turkey scenarios; Self.Ai, where attendees could create their digital alter ego and upload it to their mobile devices; a Clean Energy solutions space; and a Trumore Experience, which featured semi-enclosed pods where attendees could take a break from the chaos of the show and test out AI that anticipates your needs and helps plan your daily routine. A perfect touch that married the digital to the physical was Turkish coffee, recommended by AI and handcrafted in traditional flavors such as cardamom and pistachio.
Behind the massive screens, LG Electronics welcomed attendees into the Life’s Good environment that showcased the brand’s key offerings, such as the first wireless OLED TV, a transparent TV and a color-changing MoodUP refrigerator. But arguably the coolest aspect of the exhibit—and storytelling strategy—was the collective of emerging brands and collaborations that are part of the LG Labs. From brid.zzz smart sleep solution to Monster Shoes Club, an NFT project that merged virtual shoes and real LG Styler ShoeCase, it explored what’s next in curated, full-on experiences within a larger footprint, tying into the “home of the future” theme in unexpected, through-provoking ways.
Special Mention: Schachzug aka These Guys
Experiential marketing agency Schachzug was already coming to CES to support its multiple clients on the showfloor but decided to take the opportunity to launch their American office—These Guys—and talk about some of the event technology that makes events measurable, including heat mapping and tracking neuroactivity in virtual reality before building out the actual event. Their presence next to Google and BMW hopefully is also a sign that event tech will finally claim its space in the fabric of CES.
Main photo: SK Group exhibit