Navigating CES 2024

Sparks Marketing
Ces convention hall

Shaping Tomorrow's Tech Landscape

It came, it conquered, it went. CES 2024 has closed with the largest in-person audience since 2019 (135k+ attendees), over 4,300 exhibitors, and a 15% increase in exhibit space from 2023. “The most powerful tech event in the world” took fewer risks this year in programming and theme, but seemed to benefit from an increase in overall attendance and enthusiasm, as well as the later pattern of January 8-11 (along with removing the show days stretching over the weekend). The “All Together, All On” theme was broad enough to attract almost any brand that offers almost any sort of technology, leaving the experience big, bold and unfocused.

In order to stand out, brands took big swings with big budgets and big spends, leading to some of the more impressive experience designs we have seen in a while. Here are some of the top trends we spotted.

Eager, happy audiences.

Stand among strangers! Push someone out of the way for a photo! Wait in line for an unknown experience! Attendees were happy, energetic, and engaged (if not showing a bit of poor manners).

Photo credit: Consumer Technology Association

Budgets are back.

The spend trend at CES was simply “yes.” 2024 started off with a bang and a demonstration of brand readiness to show up to the world in a big way.

Kohler and Goodyear at CES 2024

Story matters.

CES is no longer just product demonstration and quality displays. Brands are going out of their way to show how and why they integrate into everyday life through practical demos and real-life case studies.

Bye-bye, swag.

Despite a significant sponsorship spend on swag bags from Nikon, attendees were not walking around with the giant sacks of tchotchkes like years past.

Multi-level seating and flooring.

Multi-level/raked seating and queued activations were all thoughtfully integrated into the architecture. Lines were part of every experience, and so was sitting. In-booth theaters have come back, hard.

Story Matters CES 2024
Photo credit: Consumer Technology Association

Partnerships in play.

Highlighting a brand’s partnerships was a recurring content approach, reminding us it does indeed take a village.

The rise of co-branding.

More than ever, brands looked to co-locate their positions, by sharing partnership stories or simply showing up in a shared space. This had mixed results. The strongest partnership stories were the ones that were clear and established a simple relationship. Others felt muddled and could benefit from clear messaging.

Co-Branding and Partnerships at CES 2024
Photo credit: Consumer Technology Association

Content capture everywhere.

If you didn’t record it, did it even happen? Crews and recording equipment dominated more than ever this year. It’s clear that brands are becoming more savvy and understanding that fresh content is critical. Recording an experience for archival and future purposes stretches dollars in a great way.

Return of the North Hall.

North used to be a quiet hall, but no longer. Wellness and robotics areas have become a thing, with interesting and well-funded exhibits. Keep an eye out for this growing sector.

Closed-loop and invitation-only experiences.

Invite-only experiences continue to be on the rise for brands that want to show up and show well, but don’t need to amplify their already known names. The spend per lead is much higher on this type of experience, but the return tends to be exponentially larger as well. Even without implementing invitations, brands are controlling the attendee journey more than ever to maximize dwell time, and how much of the message we remember.

Theme park style rides.

At least five brands invested in rides, or ride-like experiences to drive dwell time. We can’t say they were all equally big on story as the next one, but the spend got our attention.

Content at CES 2024
Photo credit: Consumer Technology Association

Machines do the talking.

EVs, robots and autonomous machines filled experiences in every booth. The most effective experiences were when the devices were their own demo, rather than a gimmick.

Machines do the talking at CES 2024
Photo credit: Consumer Technology Association

Closing note: The value proposition for exhibiting at CES remains strong. Yet as every brand toys with their own POV on AI, machine learning, automation, and integrated technology, the delineation among the halls and product categories begins to blur. In an era when cars look like computers, or showers are controlled by phones, the term “consumer electronics” becomes general - fast. If everything is “smart,’ why would a brand choose to be in one hall over another? Is it time for CTA to rethink the layout of the show? CES is close to a tipping point to rethink the organization of the overall show to better support their sponsors and exhibitors in a way that will help them be seen by the show attendees. We’re excited to see what’s next!