Unless you're new 'round these parts, you know that I've been working the CES beat on behalf of Panasonic (a crayon client.) I had intended to do lots of blogging and share lots of multimedia, but I was so busy over the past few days that -- other than a post on my first day in Vegas -- I haven't had a chance to write anything except tweets. I did upload a bunch of photos and a few videos -- so check those out. But moving along...
Tomorrow, I head back to New York, so I thought I'd at least take some time now to give you a sense of how I spent my time and reflect on some of my experiences at and around the show. That's the good news. The bad news is that it's a long post. Bear with me.
Panasonic showed off plenty of shiny, new gear -- from the world's thinnest television, a sweet portable Blu-Ray player, and a 150-inch HD flat panel to (arguably the booth's biggest draw) 3D HD televisions that could hit American homes as early as 2010. They also announced some great services designed to help Panasonic consumers make the most of a fully integrated, digital home -- services like a new Amazon partnership that will allow people to download on-demand video content directly to Viera Cast-enabled televisions.
But, truth be told, all of the latest gear (no matter how impressive) pales in comparison to the human side of CES -- and the human side of Panasonic's CES experience was the thing that kept me so busy.
As anyone who has attended CES (or any conference for that matter) knows, so much of the value lies in connecting with interesting people. Historically, CES has always about buyers connecting with sellers, and mainstream media reporters connecting with their manufacturer-side counterparts. All of that still goes on but, moreso than any previous year, the people to meet, greet and get to know were the social media movers and shakers. If you were a blogger, vlogger, podcaster, Twitterer or virtually any other type of prosumer ccontent creator, you were never more than a tweet away from getting together with other members of your community. Social media makers were everywhere, and you had your pick of parties on any given night.
OK. So what does this have to do with the price of sleaze in Nevada?
I was at CES as a marketer, but also as a blogger and -- more importantly -- as the host of six awesome social media content creators that joined us in Las Vegas as guests of Panasonic. My main role was to help our guests connect with one another, the Panasonic executive team and some other very special guests of our client.
Steve Garfield, Chris Brogan, Stacy DeBroff, Melissa Pierce, Ponzi Pirillo and Vicki Rellas hit the show floor each day armed with Panasonic cameras and just did their thing. They documented their experiences and told their stories -- some of their content has already hit the web, but there will be plenty more to come. I can't wait to see what they've created.
We also gave them (we hope) compelling Panasonic stories to tell. Of course, we made sure that they got a first hand look at all of Panasonic's latest innovations. But more importantly, we gave them a look at the human side of Panasonic -- an electronics company that prides itself on having a distinctly human heart. Listen to the Panasonic team and you'll hear, time and time again, that it isn't enough to make technologically superior products; it's vital that the technology improves people's lives, helps them live better, gives them new ways to spend their time, new means to create, save and share memories, and (increasingly) provides smarter, easier ways to create their own content.
Who better to deliver this vision to our social media dream team than the Chairman of Panasonic Corporation of North America. Think about it -- that's a pretty cool thing (if I don't say so myself.) The Chairman of one of the world's largest consumer electronics companies made the time to not only meet our influencers, but to engage each and every one of them in a meaningful dialogue. Yoshi Yamada described his vision for the company, answered questions, and spend some of our session getting to know the bloggers better.
And of course the entire thing was on the record. Some of the influencers' photos are already on Flickr and everyone in the room shot video. Here are just a couple of my own shots. The first shows the entire team flanking Mr. Yamada.
But wait, there's more. :-)
The human story behind Panasonic runs much deeper than corporate executives talking to content creators in the hope of garnering some good will and positive buzz. Those were key objectives of this initiative, but Panasonic is committed to engaging directly with consumers in a more profound way.
Over the course of the past year and a half, Panasonic has been driving a key initiative called Living in High Definition. They have been selecting real families from across the United States and equipping them with a full suite of HD products. Why? To demonstrate just how much impact new Panasonic technologies really do have on how families spend their time and make memories, but also (and perhaps more importantly) to gain better insights into what real people want and how they use it once they have it. We've been working with Panasonic to evolve the Living in HD program and the families involved with it into the seeds of an online community focused around digital consumer lifestyles, but that's another blog post for another time. For now, it's enough to say that Living in HD is important to Panasonic; even moreso in 2009.
Given the strategic importance of Living in HD, CES also provided a fantastic opportunity to celebrate a couple of real HD families, let them experience CES and let them tell attendees just how their lives have changed because of their involvement with Panasonic. We marketing geeks wring our hands over how to best convince social media insiders to spread word of mouth online. Panasonic is taking it one giant step further and tapping into passionate (but at the end of the day, normal) consumers to tell the Panasonic story to buyers and reporters at the country's largest consumer electronics conference. I love this approach (and while Panasonic is a crayon client, involving real families in the CES booth presence was the client's idea.)
And so, finally, we used CES as an opportunity to take this another step further by creating opportunities for the families and the influencers to meet, connect and forge new (hopefully) lasting friendships, like the one that is burgeoning between the Calandros of San Luis Obispo and MomCentral CEO (and newly minted Calandro fan) Stacy DeBroff.