What happens in Vegas? Lessons B2B can learn from CES

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the giant CES tech show in Las Vegas. The great and the good of the consumer technology industry have been joined by a host of media for the annual pilgrimage to gadget mecca, and the results are as headline grabbing as always.

One of the first “seriously, someone actually made that?” products out of the blocks was the Hair Coach – a collaboration between L’Oreal and Withings which claims to be the world’s first smart hairbrush. This particular use case was something we hadn’t counted on when we recently blogged about the reasons why IoT won’t dominate 2017. Perhaps we need to go back to the drawing board on that one…

The Hair Coach has featured extensively in media reports from the show about the weird and wonderful innovations on offer. Other notable mentions include the smart cane, virtual reality shoes and a digestion tracker which works using a sort of breathalyser to monitor how you react to certain foods based on the body odour you emit – I’ll let you visualise that one! We’ve had a chuckle whilst reading articles from The Mirror and BBC News Online  to name a few, and even heard the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones sharing news of the first toothbrush embedded with AI, The Ara from Kolibree on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

This got us thinking.  Are these type of, seemingly bonkers, gadgets proof that there really is no such thing as bad publicity? Whilst the IoT hairbrush was met with much derision, featuring prominently on spoof Twitter account @internetofshit, it’s been covered absolutely everywhere and made Withings synonymous with IoT innovation. Regardless of how many people stump up £160 for a hairbrush, the increase in brand recognition is sure to return much more value than that. Amidst the flurry of big brands looking to outdo each other with the largest keynote and the shiniest new kit launched amidst a barrage of hyperbole, these slightly more ‘unique’ products are carving their own path in the media agenda.

CES is a beast all of its own, but is there something that B2B brands can learn from their consumer cousins here? After all, the devices taking Vegas by storm are reliant on tech being developed in far less swanky places and by companies where you won’t find Will.i.am in the boardroom. What they have in common is that they all, arguably, meet a real need of society, demonstrating how technology is changing the way we live. There’s no reason why B2B technology companies shouldn’t take the very same human-first approach.

“Doesn’t B2B deserve its own frivolity?”

We’ve sat in many client meetings where news from the R&D lab has made us sit up and take notice, often asking why those sort of innovations aren’t being shouted about. Doesn’t B2B technology deserve its own frivolity? Its own chance to make John Humphreys do one of those little snorts he does when he thinks something he’s talking about is a bit ridiculous?

We think so, and we’re using CES as a good excuse to find the IoT hairbrush hidden away in the R&D depths of some of our clients.

After all, fortune favours the bald (sic).

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