CES 2021 Lessons for Marketers


Newsroom Editor

By Jeff Tan and Brad Alperin, Dentsu International USA

Dentsu is sharing three key lessons for marketers based on themes we saw emerge from CES 2021. Part one of this series revealed how adapting to current consumer behavior is the best way to start altering it. Part two highlighted why radical empathy is more important than any technology when driving disruption.

Our final lesson is that marketers need to engage with what we’re calling the whole human. 

Thinking whole human recognizes that we are all complex creatures. It involves radical empathy, our key lesson from part two. It seeks to connect at deeper emotional levels. And it involves engaging in multiple senses.

We saw several technologies at CES that attempted to get a step closer to recreating “natural” experiences.

The bHaptics Tactsuit X40 is a consumer-ready wireless haptic vest emulating what real world experiences physically feel like. It provides multi-sensorial feedback when gaming, connecting seamlessly with consoles, PCs, and AR/VR devices. 

It can also integrate with music and movie content, providing audio-based haptics in real time. Normally at CES I love experiencing technologies in all their immersive glory - in this instance, I could only imagine what the Tactsuit X40 would feel like. 

The Tactsuit X40 provides multi-sensory haptic feedback, making you the envy of your gaming buddies. Img source: bHaptics

Some technologies aim to literally expand our view. The Sony Spatial Reality Display utilizes spatial reality to bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds. It creates a realistic 3D optical experience for the naked eye. 

Utilizing eye-sensing technology, the display constantly scans for the position of the eye, delivering a crystal-clear 3D image to each one. As a user moves their head or eyes back and forth, left right, up and down, the image automatically adapts in real time to create the illusion of a 3D image. 

Imverse unveiled technology helping make video connections deeper, turning people into live 3D holograms. By utilizing depth cameras integrated with advanced real-time video technology, the result is a (somewhat) natural experience. Applications could include experiential events – imagine a live-streaming broadcast of a musical performer with full-body 3D capture. Or, a 1-1 telepresence experience, simulating real-life face-to-face interactions remotely.

Imverse Live 3D Hologram Technology provides a canvas for richer brand storytelling. Img Source: Imverse

P&G innovated the CES exhibition floor itself, creating the P&G LifeLab Everyday virtual experience. It made me think of Second Life crossed with a CES hall. Visitors to the experience could create a virtual avatar of themselves and “walk” around the P&G LifeLab floor. On showcase was a range of P&G products and solutions, videos and interactions with P&G representatives.

P&G LifeLab innovated the CES experience itself. Img source: PGLifeLab

All these examples can provide a canvas for brands to engage in deeper storytelling, driving more emotional connection. 

As human beings, we respond best when a connection is more than just merely one-dimensional and rational. The more engaging the experience, through multiple senses, or emotional responses, the more impactful that interaction is.

A great example of this is Starbucks. The company aims to build brand advocacy by engaging with all five senses. This is done in a variety of ways including coffee aroma, comfortable seating areas that encouraging relaxation and unwinding and going out of the way to accommodate personalized orders. In short, the brand sees itself as much more than just a purveyor of coffee - it is creating a holistic brand experience beyond the coffee cup.

Another manifestation is the partnership between ABInBev, Microsoft and the NBA. Michelob Ultra Courtside is a digital experience allowing 300 fans to appear and communicate virtually inside a basketball arena during an NBA game. 

Michelob Ultra and Microsoft have reimagined the courtside experience, thinking beyond one-dimension experiences. Img source: TheSportsRush

To think whole human as a brand, challenge how you’re engaging with consumers beyond sight and sound. Further, consider ways in which you can understand and treat people more like people. Think of them more than just objectified consumers of your product.

As we put this series of lessons together, we reflected upon previous CES shows over the decades. We couldn’t help but notice that technology has been getting more and more complex. It is working itself into every corner of our lives and culture. 

We noticed that simple, single-purpose technologies have given way to a dizzying array of devices capable of performing a variety of tasks. For instance, the latest generation of foldable smartphones are much more than a phone ever intended to be.

These technologies are connecting more people than ever – as well as connecting machines, communities and entire ecosystems together. Almost every analogy we could find to describe technology today breaks down, except one.

Nature itself. 

Nature is the only thing that’s as complex and all-encompassing as technology has become. And what does nature reward? It’s not strength. Not speed. Or even smarts.

Over time, the one thing that nature rewards over and over again, is this.


So, in this world of constant change, ask yourself this. How are you looking at your changing category, your changing consumers, and your changing world, and how are you looking to adapt to it?

Articles In the CES Blog Series