Our Strategic “Shopping List” for CES 2019

Ah, CES. The gadgets, the parties, the tech statements, the endless miles of booths.

Will we see the next big breakthrough in technology this year? If the previous two or three years are anything to go by, really unlikely. What we will see is expansion and refinement of existing trends. We’ll see IOT, smart home, biometrics, self-driving cars. We’ll see AI sprinkled over everything like sriracha sauce. Alexa and Siri as far as the eye can see. And bots. Oh, the bots.


I used to cordially loathe CES. And yet here I am, ticket in hand, signed on to host tours with the official CES tour guide, StoryTech. What changed?

It’s simple. I came to realize that the power of CES isn’t about the display of wares – it’s about the power of imagination and the ability to foresee how to apply what you learn. And applying what you learn requires a plan of what you want to discover. 

One of the cornerstones of our practice is that we look for strategic solutions for common challenges across marketers and agencies. We’re tackling CES the exact same way: what challenges that confront our clients right now can be addressed by emerging technologies?

There are four key applications of technology we’re “shopping” at CES:

  1. Interstitial retail: It’s a fancy name for technologies that help take the physical aspects of retail shopping and make them digital, or conversely bring the best of digital to enhance the instore experience. Can trial be exported outside of the physical product and store? Can you “try something on” in store when you’re too lazy to go to the changeroom? From cars to lipstick, this is a rich area of enhancing customer experience.

  2. The emo effect: To date, biometrics have been treated very rationally: brilliant medical applications or insurance companies getting on board with health monitoring. What’s less understood, and therefore a great opportunity, is the effect of biometrics on wellness and emotional measures. And it’s not just mood: the right tech can actually enhance brand purpose. The Nike Fuel Band was a pioneering example of a device that used biometrics to lift emotions and build the brand. This field is only getting wider – and clever brands will harness the right device to enhance their brand’s emotional territory.

  3. Aural fingerprint: We used to think that value propositions were about messaging the right offer. Value propositions now go beyond visual and verbal – Zippo’s recent trademark of their signature sound is a great example of how brands need to consider all possible sensory inputs, particularly aural. Whether it’s a distinctive brand “voice” or mnemonics, we’ll be keeping our eyes out for innovative ideas in the field of sound and voice.

  4. Win-win data strategies: Behind every great device is a great data strategy. The best data strategy acknowledges the growing unease that consumers are feeling in the age of the dynamic duopoly, the rise of AI, and a data breach practically every day. GDPR was a direly-needed first step, but the real juice is in the ability of tech to make their data exchange transparent and mutually beneficial for brands and consumers. Utopian? Possibly. But if middle schoolers can tell me what an algorithm does with their data (they can) then it’s time for brands and media platforms to come to terms with a much more aware consumer than ever before and treat their data with respect.

That’s our serious “game face” strategy for CES 2019.


The other part of CES that’s truly enjoyable is the sheer spectacle, the sometimes beautiful expressions of technology. Discovery, in the age of the algorithm, is a rare and beautiful thing – so we’ll be packing our curiosity as well as our “shopping list”. And of course, really, really comfortable shoes.


Sarah Ivey founded Agents of Necessity, a global strategy agency, to crack the big strategic problems that confront agencies and marketers alike. We’re planning on applying ourselves during CES and beyond – to understand how to apply what you learned at CES to future-proof your brand experience, check out our custom-built insight product Futurlens.

ThinkingSarah IveyComment