Thoughts on How to Improve CES After 25 Years of Attendance

January 4, 2016

11:14 am

Willy Sutton, the infamous bank robber from more than a century ago explained that he robbed banks because “that’s where the money is.” At the world’s largest consumer trade show each January in Las Vegas, NV, the real capital and emblematic reason for entrepreneurs to attend the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is that is where the media is.

Having attended each show since 1990, I have a unique view into the legendary consumer electronics show. The good, the bad and tips for hacking your way into making news and getting noticed over the din and millions of dollars invested by 3,500 exhibitors and hundreds of thousands of attendees filtering through all the venues. But first, I’d like to share my opinion on two ideas to improve CES as CTA prepares for a new and bright future.

Rebranding

After nearly 50 years, I believe it’s time to rebrand and modernize the formerly iconic name “International Consumer Electronics Show”. The consumer technology marketplace has evolved with spectacular innovations since CES’s launch in 1967– rooted from a time when analog electronics commanded attention. Back then, pocket radios, integrated circuitry and transistors ruled. But, today’s culture-changing tech products are no longer relegated to electronics, but rather to transformative, digital inventions.

For nearly 50 years, CES has been the home to groundbreaking innovations to captivate the world. Now, it is time for a change to celebrate a much larger universe of next-generation consumer products which have a singular commonality: digital. The Consumer Technology Association (CTA), as the global stage for innovation, needs to change and rebrand the name of its trade show to “CES: The Digital Technology Show” or something of that nature, which would also reflect their change from the Consumer Electronic Association (CEA) to Consumer Technology Association (CTA) just a few months ago.

As the mainstay for new product announcements – introduced to the worldwide media each January in Las Vegas, including to influential tech bloggers and trending social media reporters, CES has changed. Just as technology has led to a near wreckage of traditional retail stores and mall shopping experiences – replaced by online sales –  so, too, has CES seen an ocean-sized shift in its vendor’s products.

Using the name ‘electronics’ to describe CES, is dated in 1960s technology. By modernizing its name to reflect the fact that most consumer products in today’s all-digital world are digital, CES would vastly broaden the landscape for many new vendors to participate in the show, as well as becoming CTA members.

Security

Heightened security and unprecedented crowd chaos concerns are weighing heavily on many to consider cancelling their plans to attend CES. While this enhanced security is essential, the lines and added safekeeping restrictions are causing many to pause. The lines will pose a major obstacle. Even though Uber’s first year in Vegas may remedy some taxi lines, the LVCC may be unbearable.

The new rules are certain to create lines more vast than the taxi lines at the Vegas hotels. I do not intend to callously marginalize or diminish the necessity and smart planning by CTA to enhance security, but there are issues.

CTA needs to explain more to win back those who are cancelling. Explain the procedures – if people will be pre-screened before entering secured shuttle buses and the monorail, for example. There is no way to screen the tons of exhibitors’ equipment, the vast entry points to every venue, every hotel conference center, and every satellite speaker venue throughout the city. Let alone the outside areas which are open to the public, such as near the food trucks, where thousands of people – many without CES credentials – go to gather in the LVCC parking lots.

Can a single advocacy campaign by one entrepreneur motivate this name change? Yes. Just as single products over the decades have continually reinvented CES, my past advocacy campaigns provide the cache to make this happen. Prior advocacy efforts included my role as lead plaintiff in the multi-billion dollar merchant interchange credit card settlement, and among the first business owners to loudly challenge Donald Trump’s presidential aspirations.

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As a graduate from the Marshall School of Business and Entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California, Mitch Goldstone is a longtime leader in the photo imaging industry and co-founder of ScanMyPhotos.com, the Ecommerce photo digitization service which has scanned more than a quarter billion pictures

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