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Innovation, Not Eye Candy, is Key Insight of CES 2019





Recounting my time at CES to “Eavesdropping on Marketing” co-host Joergen Aaboe, he let me drone on about what's new in tech -- 5G, AI, IOT, yadda yadda – for about a minute. Then came the challenge: “Yeah, yeah, but what were your biggest insights?” Once I peeled it back a layer, there were quite a few. We chatted about my top three in our latest “EOM” podcast, including: (1) innovation is intentional; (2) a data onslaught is coming; and (3) experiential marketing matters.

You can listen to our conversation to hear more about 2 and 3. In the meantime, here are some thoughts on my number one insight from CES: innovation is intentional.

How innovators think and how new tech makes its way to market doesn’t happen by accident. As I was posted up at StoryTech HQ at Sands Expo, I got an indirect look at the process of innovation as we curated show floor tours featuring examples of the trends compiled in Lori Schwartz’ annual trend report. Lori and fellow CES veterans Andy Maskin and Melvin Wilson, each of whom have run innovation labs and counseled their clients through multiple tech cycles, gave me a new perspective on innovation.

While experience helps, spotting innovation starts with being aware and staying on top of trends. Over time, this creates a continuous study of what’s changing, what matters to end-users and where technology can create improvements – whether by subtle iteration or in dramatic fashion.

The blue-chip companies who passed through our briefing room and took the official CES VIP show floor tour are the students of innovation at their companies. Whether or not we have the means or desire to attend CES, everyone can have an intentional focus on innovation – it’s all at our fingertips. An intentional focus on innovation can move the needle for even the smallest of businesses.

Large consumer packaged goods and global advertising agency holding companies, on the other hand, are investing huge sums on innovation to help keep them relevant and competitive. As has always been the case with R&D, they do so knowing most products will be abandoned in favor of a few standouts, a few of which were on full display at CES.

P&G was the highest profile company featuring innovation on our tour, with P&G Ventures front and center showcasing products on their way to market in the next 18 months. Not only did they lead with innovation, but it was also Procter and Gamble’s first time exhibiting at CES! And they did not disappoint.

The Genius AI toothbrush from Oral B tracks the motion of your brushing to help you become better at it. Opté a handheld wand that uses a camera to scan skin-color, detect age spots and correct them with a microprinter that deposit optimizing serum with precise coverage. Some of P&G’s new products, like Gillette’s Heated Razor, graduated from a partnership with Indiegogo, an innovation itself for such a large company to partner with a smaller one to leverage the crowdfunding phenomenon.

Over at Whirlpool, innovation was on display with new products from WLabs, including a Connected Oven with built-in cameras and a transparent door which is also a huge video display interface. Tired of putting your tablet at risk in the kitchen? Whirlpool has you covered with the Smart Display, a waterproof tablet that sits easily on the counter and is integrated with Google Home and content and guided recipes from its Yummly acquisition.

The entire P&G team was great, especially booth ringmaster and P&G chief design officer Phil Duncan – thank you for taking the time to make our few hundred guests feel right at home. And thanks most of all to my friend of many years, Lori Schwartz, for showing me a side of CES that will forever make me think differently about innovation, both in technology and in my own business.