CES 2018 Highlights: The Best in Brand Marketing

More than 22,000 conventions are held in Las Vegas each year. This makes the self-professed “Entertainment Capital of the World” the number two destination for event marketers. And, it’s easy to see why. Las Vegas offers the very best in food, shows, gambling and shopping.

All this helps it rank high among today’s consumers, who’d rather buy experiences over material goods. But, if you’ve had the opportunity to visit, you already know Sin City offers an experience like no other. It’s what led to the popular slogan, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” Fortunately, the expression doesn’t apply to all the innovations revealed at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

B2B and B2C marketers, health tech pros and electronics enthusiasts are only a few groups that wait with bated breath for CES news. Yet, thousands of others will go ahead and make the trek to the event, which has been held in Las Vegas for four decades. In fact, the 2017 show drew near 185,000 attendees, who made mention of the conference almost one million times on social media sites. There’s no doubt this visibility prompted others to follow along, considering CES’ Snapchat story had almost 134 million views!

These numbers are a long way from 1967, when the show debuted and welcomed 17,500 people. It’s obvious that advances in technology have been a huge draw. But, high-stakes competition in brand marketing make the standout event what it is today. And, the rise in experiential marketing over the past few years has only added to the attendee experience.

3 Experiential Marketing Activations That Made the CES 2018 Highlights

Event marketers considering a CES 2019 exhibit or seeking ideas for other trade showsneed look no further than the CES 2018 highlights listed below. These three brands brought the best in brand marketing to deliver experiences that drive people to the Las Vegas mainstay every year.


Like Kodak, the luxury carmaker Mercedes continued current brand marketing campaigns at CES 2018. For instance, it wrapped up Intelligent World Drive, a five-month initiative that sent a S-Class test vehicle across five continents. The goal was to examine automated driving functions and gather data for the future of automated and autonomous driving. Las Vegas served as its final stop. But, it’s safe to say, the biggest thrill of Mercedes’ CES 2018 participation was the car rides it gave down the famed Las Vegas strip.

The company’s self-driving Concept EQA made its U.S. debut for CES 2018. That’s right; brave passengers went for a spin in a car devoid of a steering wheel or pedals. Instead, it was operated by a man on the side of the road, using what one participant described as “joysticks.” The activation not only drew CES attendees, but also captured the attention of tourists passing by in the wee hours of the morning. And, though an autonomous car is far from being available, Mercedes stepped outside of the box, demonstrated its capabilities, and allowed others to get hands-on (or hands-off in this case) in a unique way.


Kodak is a brand that dates back to the late 1800s, but its brand marketing strategy is far from dated. This was true at CES 2018, when it re-launched a brand of its past – Ektachrome. And, it did so with a downtown Las Vegas theme, fittingly. The downtown area was the town’s original gambling district. It was revitalized in recent years and, today, is a popular attraction. One of the area’s draws is the Fremont Street Experience, and Kodak fell in line with an experience of its own.

The brand created a “regenerated urban environment” that celebrated its heritage. The installment, dubbed “Kodak Downtown,” was the latest in its “award-winning” concept, ‘The Kodak Quarter’. This was in collaboration with brand experience agency, Jack Morton Worldwide, which it’s partnered with since 2015.

Kodak Downtown featured three distinctive retail areas. Together, they allowed visitors to “experience the entire Kodak portfolio.” One area, the Eastman House, for example, showed use of Kodak’s products in the home. This included printers, home monitors and security cameras. And, the brand did so while following through with its purpose “to bring to life the essence of downtown Las Vegas.” More important, it did so in authentic and engaging ways – two critical qualities of any experiential marketing activation.


If you don’t know much about Google Assistant, the tech giant’s intelligent personal assistant device, plan to get to know it well moving forward. Google, which is not known for its CES presence, stepped up big for the 2018 show, working in collaboration with brand experience agency, Sparks. And, based on its standout performance, one would imagine there’s no looking back.

The company’s exhibit couldn’t be missed with its bright colors and “Hey Google” messaging. Yet, it was also so large it featured three stories, a spiral slide to get back to the ground floor and a bridge to connect to the other side of the “booth.” The latter, as well as some of the exhibit’s outer walls, was covered in countless questions one might ask their Google Assistant, giving attendees a good idea of what to expect inside.

Some of Google’s CES 2018 highlights included a video played on the ceiling. Watching it allowed attendees to lie down and learn how Google Assistant might help them upon waking and then throughout the day. In other rooms, they saw various devices Google Assistant can work with to offer automation and efficiencies in their lives. There were also many small booths to step in and interact with Google Assistant in various ways, such as playing trivia or checking the weather. And, let’s not forget the giant gumball machines with Google swag or the free food, like doughnuts and cookies! It was all carefully orchestrated by the brand and its partners.

In short, Google showed up and showed out at CES 2018, proving how beneficial attention to detail can be to a memorable experience.

5 Key Takeaways for Event Marketers from CES 2018

Event marketers without the budget and resources of these world-class brands can still deliver a memorable experience. They only need to take note of the five takeaways from the best in brand marketing from CES 2018.

1. Be authentic. Let consumers see your brand’s true self, which is a critical factor for many, especially Millennials.

2. Be engaging. Allow people to get hands-on with your products. This is why having the best event staff on hand to assist people to understand your offerings and your brand is so important.

3. Be holistic. Make event and experiential marketing a part of overall brand marketing efforts. It helps maintain consistency in brand experiences and maximizes campaign ROI.

4. Be bold. Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks in experiential marketing, such as with PR stunts. They can make for lasting memories, which can work to your brand’s benefit.

5. Be detailed. The effort you put in to experiential marketing activations will not go unnoticed. Attendees will appreciate when little details contribute to the bigger picture.

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