An apt descriptor for CES 2014 might be “nothing new, but everything improved.” What was unveiled this year was more about needed product maturation than novel creation. We’ll explore some of the big takeaways and what they signify for the year ahead for brands in a series of blog posts. One of the most notable trends at CES came out of the evolution of last year’s focus on the Internet of Things and how this has forged competitive brand alliances presented in a new way this year.
The star of the show at CES last year wasn’t a specific gadget, but the emergence of a new ecosystem of brands supporting the connected life in spaces such as the home, travel, education, the office and beyond via the emerging Internet of Things. A network of sensors and big data that aim to drive automation in our lives, the Internet of Things exists today more as a conceptual model than a realized network. The connected ecosystem reigned supreme once again. At this year’s event we saw brands celebrate the interdependencies within their respective ecosystems and their alliances in unprecedented ways.
Brands have co-promoted in campaigns before. Remember the Alpine and Lamborghini ads from the 1980s? The merging of the Alpine brand’s sound system and the classic luxury car brand in these clever ad posters could be found on many audiophiles’ walls. This year, Monster partnered with Lamborghini to showcase their Pure Monster audio system inside $4.5 million Veneno, revisiting a time-tested ingredient brand strategy.
The prominence of brands celebrating their ecosystem partners, however, signaled a shift. Never before have brands co-promoted to this degree — where allegiances are viewed as indicators of strength. Ford cars, for example, could be found in the Sony showroom and vice versa.
In this hyper-connected world, a brand’s success will be reliant upon an ecosystem of partners, and for technology brands, defined as the coordinated effort between network provider, the hardware manufacturer, software developer and partner brands. This connectivity is ushering in a new wave of branding complexity.
Simply put, who gets the credit when everyone is partnering?
Established industry leaders may find themselves playing the role of an ingredient partner for the first time as they work to establish brand credibility in a new space. Some brands may choose to utilize white label strategies and mask their presence completely from the eyes of customers.
The brands that will emerge as leaders in the increasingly interdependent and complex ecosystems will be those that can master the art of partnership. We were encouraged to see brands exploring promoting their partnerships this year on the CES showroom floors as a sign of things to come.
Forest Young is a Creative Director in Interbrand’s New York office.