I’m just back from a few days at CES in Las Vegas. The annual Consumer Electronics Show has become a white hot core of the marketing world, certainly for technology, but also now for nearly every major brand. Consumer electronics, after all, is the medium through which brands communicate and converse with consumers. If you care about your brand, you’re at the show.
This year, of course, would prove to be different. Gone was (most of) the ebullience and chest pounding; a more somber tone was prevalent, and most certainly the network of hotels, casinos, and convention centers that makes up the CES ecosystem was …. more sparse. It’s clear companies had cut back travel and thousands of folks simply did not come. Everyone remarked on that – cab lines were shorter, halls and walkways between events less crowded.
But there was something else in the air, and after some reflection, I think I know what it is. I’ll call it The Ground. I got the distinct sense from the marketers, developers, and publishers I spoke with that they had, in the main, found The Ground – they had been falling, out of control, for a long time, and finally, they’ve found themselves on the other side.
I think we all were worried that when we hit the bottom, we’d splat like a bug on a windshield. But we’re realizing it’s rather more like Alice or Tik Tok, falling through a long, confusing hole, and emerging, blinking, into a baffling new world. Strange, certainly, but at least there’s gravity and sunlight: We can get up, dust ourselves off, and look around to see what might come next.
The world we’re seeing is quite different indeed. For those in marketing, it’s a world where the assumptions of the past are no longer reliable. There are strange new creatures, and odd new lands (Twitter? Facebook? Blogs?). The practices which worked for the past 50 years are crumbling. Combined with the harsh reality of a deep recession, it’s clear we have our work cut out.
But here we stand, ready to do the work. That is what I sensed at CES. The journey will be difficult, there are losses still ahead, and we’ll be continually be tested. We will be forced to question our assumptions and deal with situations which on their face might be challenging, or even preposterous (a Cheshire Cat? Forests of Metal?!). But we can either hide from this new reality, or embrace it as an important narrative upon which we must embark.
And at least with the people I spoke to at CES this week, it’s clear they are starting to see things from the latter point of view.
This, to me, is very good news, and gives me great optimism about the future.