How to launch a product at CES in Las Vegas

Many businesses ask our consumer technology team if it is worth doing a product launch at the world famous Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Here at multi award winning PR Agency One, we wanted to explain our thoughts on a product launch at CES and talk you through the work we have recently undertaken at CES for our clients.

CES is the world’s largest consumer technology show, where everyone from global tech giants to start-ups descend to showcase their latest wares. This is the place where trends and tastes get decided for the next 12 months and beyond, all under the gaze of the rapacious world media and over 170,000 delegates.

PR Agency One has recently returned from CES, where we launched Relync, the world’s first folding smart mobility scooter. The product stole the show, with coverage appearing in Forbes, TechCrunch, The Verge, Daily Mail, to name just a few. All told there were placements in over 1,000 outlets and in 16 different languages.  The client was ecstatic.  You can read our case study here.

That said, CES is not for every brand and it is a pretty big investment, so hopefully the following post will help to cement your thoughts.

What type of companies should undertake a product launch at CES?

Are you about to undertake a product launch and ready to go to market? Then CES is for you. Looking to meet investors? CES is for you. Wanting to secure media coverage in some of the world’s biggest media outlets, like the BBC, Guardian, the New York Times? Then, yes – CES is for you.

Those businesses that probably shouldn’t exhibit are those that are furthest from being ready to launch.

Our experience has shown that the more visual the product – for example, if it moves or if it is animated – then it also grabs a generous slice of attention. Likewise, we spotted countless products that on close inspection were exceptional ideas but simply weren’t communicated in an impactful or visual way.

In short, you need an angle or a point of difference if you are going to stand out.

How do I handle a global product launch at CES? 

CES Unveiled is one of the most impressive media events that we have ever borne witness to. It takes place on the Sunday night, two days before CES starts. The world’s media are there and, with some clever PR event planning and preparation, appointments can be made which will be the launch pad for the majority of your media cove

rage at CES.

At the actual CES exhibition, while media may be willing to stop by your stand, the chances are that they will do so on a more ad hoc basis, and many will have already begun publishing content about CES in the immediate aftermath of unveiled. So our advice would be to go to CES Unveiled or go home – any brand wanting to make the most of the PR opportunity that attending CES  PR opportunity CES offers should be there.

Which country should I appoint a PR agency in for CES?

CES is in the US, but it might not be necessary to appoint an American agency, especially if you are looking for global media coverage. And not every brand can afford to have a PR agency in every territory.

Call us biased, but the UK is a great base for a PR agency. Not only are there advantages due to English being the defacto global language of business, but it benefits from its time zone – a UK agency can speak to China in the morning, cover Europe off in the day, and then get on the phone to US media in the afternoon and early evening. It is also worth noting that we have written other articles about how to choose an international PR partner.

(A huge disclaimer, the author of this article works for a UK PR firm.)

Language can be an issue and it does pay to translate content into multiple languages and to have agencies in every territory. However, only the biggest brands can blow their budget in this way. Most businesses can make do with an English language press release sold into global consumer technology media. As long as the agency has experience to sell stories in globally (and the contacts and the data to do so) then a global product launch can be undertaken very easily.

What should I do in the build up to CES to prepare?

The earlier you appoint a PR agency ahead of CES the better.  Planning out any set content set such as reports, videos and other marketing materials takes time.  You might also be interested in the conference and speaker opportunities the event offers and trying secure a speaker slot onstage takes considerable forward planning. Then, there is the time required to organise media appointments in advance of the show itself. CES is so big that trying to organise media briefings without prior arranged appointments can be extremely difficult – even if journalists end up deviating from their schedules or running late, it is always better to have commitments to meeting put in place in advanced.

There are clear benefits of framing the product if it’s an entirely new proposition – frame it by launching a research-led campaign or by planning out key messages and focusing on the value proposition and its unique qualities

We’d also consider whether a brand really needs its own news conference – news conferences are common at CES but expensive and only available after Unveiled. If you are going to do your own news conference after CES Unveiled then much thought must be given into what is going to be said or shown that is different to what has already been launched at Unveiled. We’d personally only recommend news conferences for really major brands.

It is also important to consider the types of information that the spokespeople need to know for when journalists come to the stand, and prepare them accordingly. So many clients are ill prepared for media interviews or can’t even answer the most basic media questions. Journalists at CES are time-pressed and sifting through thousands of new products and companies, so it is important that your spokespeople are able to field their questions with confidence, speed and ease.

For example, think about the specific, minute details that journalists will ask and ensure you have consistent answers prepared, and if permission is required from manufacturers or distributors in order to be able to talk about them, ensure you have it. Consider all of the details – for example, do you have any distributors in place and who are they? (If not what kinds of distributors are you looking for and where are you seeking distribution?) What is the weight of the product and what materials is it made from? What are the general availability dates (if you know)? If you are exhibiting a prototype are there any aspects of it that will differ in the final model?

How do I make my product stand out at CES?

Having an angle or point of differentiation is essential in order to stand out from the thousands of other companies exhibiting.

PR agencies are great at coming up with ideas to ensure you stand out and create a point of difference without it becoming unnecessary ‘bloat’ around your core USP. From the outset, work with yours together to think about your product’s point of difference drive that message home with hard working media relations and blogger engagement and think about how best to communicate it visually on the stand.

Sometimes, you might be one of many in a fight to the death to own the product category. For example, this year at CES we saw at least ten different in-ear language translation products. While the idea of having languages translated via an ear piece is mind blowing in the grand scheme of things, it was a shame that there were at least ten competitors at the show. One business even claimed to be “the world’s first” which was an easy message to debunk with a short walk around the exhibition hall.

If your market is competitive then don’t panic. Good old fashioned hard work and determination from your PR and marketing teams can help you stand out from the crowd. Don’t panic, just roll up your sleeves and get ready for some hard work and a PR dog fight.

How do I undertake a product launch for a completely unknown brand at CES?

Tech is one of those rare market sectors where start-ups are lauded. Innovation comes from unusual or unknown places so the fact that your business or brand is unknown is not a problem – it can actually make it more appealing.

However, just make sure that you have undertaken work to craft your brand messaging, ensure the people on your stand know their stuff and that your branding is in the best and most professional shape possible – we did see a lot of horror stories and awful brand executions while we were at CES. It is important that both your marketing literature and spokespeople project the impression of a professional business that is a serious contender. 

And what about after CES?

While CES is a great platform to launch your tech product, the event really is only the beginning of the story. A lot of the media you’ll meet will want to be kept abreast of your company’s latest news and developments over the coming 12-24 months.

It is also worth remembering that there will be plenty of relevant media who do not attend the show, and this is especially likely if your product is of interest to niche audiences or vertical sectors. Therefore, it is important to have a long term strategic PR plan in order to give your product launch the maximum chance of success.

Good luck with your product launch! And feel free to get in contact on:

or email [email protected]  if you have any questions or if you need some help.

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