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What You Missed at CES 2021

3 MINUTE READ | January 21, 2021

What You Missed at CES 2021

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Abby Long

Abby is PMG’s senior managing editor, where she leads the company’s editorial program and manages the PMG Blog and Insights Hub. As a writer, editor, and marketing communications strategist with nearly a decade of experience, Abby's work in showcasing PMG’s unique expertise through POVs, research reports, and thought leadership regularly informs business strategy and media investments for some of the most iconic brands in the world. Named among the AAF Dallas 32 Under 32, her expertise in advertising, media strategy, and consumer trends has been featured in Ad Age, Business Insider, and Digiday.

Historically a headline-making event, the first all-virtual CES was largely overshadowed by political events in Washington, D.C. this month. Still, plenty of tech advancements and developments were announced throughout dozens of sessions and over 2,000 company showcases that are worth taking note of. 

Here are the three things that caught our attention during CES 2021:

It’s no surprise that a majority of keynotes and product prototypes centered around consumer health and wellness, sanitation, and “pandemic tech.” Digital health products, including Fossil’s and Michael Kors’ new smartwatch models, air purifiers, touchless gadgets, and the “smart mask” prototype by Razer, were buzzworthy clean tech, as were wearable biosensors like the Mudra Band, a CES 2021 Innovation Award honoree.

Given the product development timelines required to conceptualize and produce new tech products, we imagine CES 2022 will have even more commercially-ready clean tech as we draw closer to a post-pandemic future.

Related: Top products announced at CES 2021 by Axios

Verizon’s keynote kicked off CES with an immersive exhibition into the progress made to deploy 5G and the foundational technologies that will power the future of cities, transportation, and entertainment with, as Verizon dubs it, “ultra-wideband” connectivity.

With all three major U.S. carriers now offering nationwide 5G coverage, greater attention was placed on exploring how 5G can be used for more than just mobile network speeds, including connected cars and drones, automation technology, expansive AR experiences, and improved consumer products like 5G-enabled laptops and smartphones. As 5G capabilities are built into more mainstream consumer electronics, carriers are moving quickly to enable faster, more powerful 5G networks around the country.

A popular topic of conversation in many CES sessions this year was how brands are embracing the challenges brought on by the unprecedented events of 2020 and how brand marketers can continue to prioritize flexibility amid the uncertainty of the pandemic and this new social climate. Commonly introduced as “compressed disruption,” speakers referred to the acceleration of digital trends during 2020 as a proof point of how brands can adapt to urgent change and transform to meet the moment.

Understanding consumers’ evolving mindsets and needs will be more important than ever heading into 2021, as will the task of identifying opportunities to lean into a brand’s purpose and use marketing communications and social channels to connect and deepen relationships with customers. 

This year, CES showcased multiple ways technology will continue to shape new ways of shopping (being able to shop as you watch your TV), working (more mobility and driverless vehicles powering the future workforce), living (in-home dry cleaning units and helpful robot assistants), and being entertained (rotating screens, VR headsets, and streaming capabilities).

Related: In like manner, conscious consumerism and environmentally-conscious brands and products were poignant topics during marketing sessions as consumers continue to prioritize sustainability and social responsibility when making purchasing decisions. 

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Throughout CES, the overarching question was identifying what leading indicators can help us adapt to pandemic-induced changes, disruptions, and trends that will be here to stay once the coronavirus pandemic subsides. While there’s no crystal ball, and the answer to that question remains largely unknown, CES indicated that prioritizing flexibility and transparency will help brands stay ahead of whatever comes next.

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