How To Generate Buzz Around Your Brand at CES 2025: Lessons From Previous Years

the ultimate guide to securing press at ces

With CES 2024 in our rearview, our team is already getting a head start on positioning our CES clients to achieve maximum PR impact at next year’s tech innovation extravaganza!

A common question from our clients: What does it cost to attend CES? The 2024 CES ticket price was only $100 if you registered by December 3, 2023, and then $300 until January 11, 2024. (We’ll keep you posted when next year’s dates come out.)

CES brings together all of the biggest players in the consumer electronics space and is among the largest trade shows in the US. We’re talking thousands of exhibitors, hundreds of thousands of products on display, and more than 100,000 attendees, all spread across three locations in Las Vegas. 

For the media, CES is a feeding frenzy—more than 4,800 media members from 151 countries are in attendance to land top headlines for their respective publications. Nearly a quarter-million stories are generated from a single week of media engagement during CES.

For this reason, no matter the size of your brand, CES is a premier PR opportunity to generate massive buzz around your brand and scale your business. This is why at CES you’ll find global titans to fledgling startups alike, each and all in hot pursuit of the right media coverage, the right retailers, the right distributors, and the right partners to ensure a stratospheric product launch.

So, how can your brand capitalize on this powerful PR opportunity? Here’s what you need to know to ensure your brand achieves lift-off at CES.

Know Thy Audience

You might call this the First and Great Commandment in the Marketing and PR Bible, and for good reason. Unless you know who you’re talking to, what’s important to them, and why, you won’t be able to effectively tailor your communication and reach your audience.

During CES, you’ll face multiple audiences, including media, retailers, partners, distributors, influencers, competitors, analysts, and more. Though there will be some overlap between these audiences, it’s essential to know their distinctions and how to craft a narrative for each.

Analysts, for example, are going to be interested in a big-picture, long-term view: how your product fits into larger industry trends, the particular role your product is playing, and what it portends for the future.

On the other hand, the media will have an appetite for news-grabbing soundbites, click-worthy quotes, unexpected angles, surprising headlines, and provocative activations.

When it comes to media, especially, you’ll need to begin building a list of your top media targets, choosing a dozen or so that will most effectively cast your brand into the limelight.

Know which “bee” you need to put in which “bonnet” to generate buzz for your brand at CES. The tricky part here is to craft strategic messaging for multiple audiences while still communicating a compellingly singular value proposition.

In other words, to create a synergistic approach and outcome, you don’t want to lose the forest for the trees, and it’s a lot easier to prevent this from happening when you partner with an industry-leading marketing and PR firm.

Think “outside the booth” with experiential activations

Once you’ve identified your audiences, it’s time to communicate your brand’s value proposition, which begins with telling your brand story with “outside the booth” thinking. 

Telling your brand story is one of the most important—and challenging—things your brand will ever do. That’s because a good story isn’t a collection of facts, no matter how interesting. It’s not a laundry list of the features of your product but rather the communication of its benefits (its value proposition).

But here’s where the plot thickens. These benefits also aren’t a collection of facts. Rather, the real benefits of your product are the experience that it delivers to real people in ways that make a real difference in their lives (and that differentiates your brand).

Said differently, people don’t buy products—they buy experiences. (In the form of solutions to problems, satisfied longings, and answers to important, intriguing, or vexing questions.)

At CES 2024, GE Profile introduced their smart indoor smoker with active smoke filtration, smoking meat at their booth while chatting with attendees.. Can you imagine how enticing their booth must’ve smelled? That’s storytelling through scent. 

Brands and PR agencies that understand this place a premium on storytelling because they know that successful brands are not in the business of selling products but rather in the business of creating impactful experiences.

Of course, your audience isn’t going to engage with you during CES and say, “Tell me your brand story.” That’s why to succeed at CES, you’ll need to be thinking about how to create a fully experiential activation, which simply means telling your brand story in a way that experientially activates the value proposition of your brand.

Our team at Zen Media created this kind of experiential activation when Chase for Business approached us for help with communicating their value proposition as a trusted resource and partner for small business owners.

To experientially activate this value proposition to Chase for Business’ audience, we designed the Chase BizMobile, a mobile hub of complementary consulting services that travels all across the country, meeting small business owners wherever they might be along their entrepreneurial journey.

Related reading: Hybrid, Physical, or Virtual: What Should Your Event Be?

Of course, a brick-and-mortar BizMobile wasn’t going to work during a pandemic, so we worked with Chase to convert the experience to a fully virtual one. Instead of traveling the country and meeting business owners face-to-face, we shifted the meetings to Google Hangouts.

Experiential activations don’t need to be anything as grand as the Chase BizMobile (whether on Google Hangouts or in person!). They can be surprisingly simple, unassuming, and completely affordable. As long as they activate an impactful experience of your value proposition, they’re more than enough to tell your brand story in a way that will differentiate you from your competitors.

Engage influencers to ignite interest and sustain momentum

In today’s tech-centric landscape, digital media has largely replaced traditional media as the most effective approach for generating attention and influence. While it used to be that landing an advertising spot during primetime TV or holding a press conference with a top print publication was the holy grail of B2B marketing and PR, today, the terms of influence and attention have dramatically changed, and the expectations of your audience have changed with them.

For one thing, your audience is no longer buying anything resembling a traditional sales pitch, and they’re not paying much attention to content that feels “canned” or impersonal.

They’re also increasingly immune to traditional media’s one-way, top-down approaches and much more likely to engage with brands that leverage the conversational approaches that define new media.

Knowing how to start and sustain the conversation about your brand before, during, and after CES is nothing less than mission-critical, and one of the best ways to do this is by identifying the right influencers to work with.

Related reading: 10 Things To Consider When Identifying Influencers for B2B

The right influencers are those who authentically represent the image, voice, and values of your brand and who already have—yes, you guessed it!—reach and influence with your target audience!

When you choose the right influencer, your brand not only gains instant access to a highly captive audience via the influencer’s social media channels, it also gains instant cachet due to the relationships of trust they’ve already formed with their followers.

Not only this, the conversation about your brand doesn’t begin and end with the influencer but can, with enough know-how, spread like wildfire through shares, likes, and other forms of social virality. This is the key to igniting interest in your product at CES and sustaining momentum well after the event ends.

This influencer-driven, socially amplified approach is how we recently helped Nouveau Eyewear launch its new line of True Religion brand prescription frames at Walmart Vision Centers. Leveraging a triple-brand partnership, we mobilized 8 Influencers and 30+ social posts, achieving more than 500k reach in 30 days to successfully drive in-store sales of luxury items at a price-conscious retail outlet!

Leverage trends—yes, like AI.

Each year, CES is marked by different trends. In recent years, voice-activated devices have been all the rage. Another year, smart-home gear captured the majority of the media’s interest. And 2024’s CES was the unofficial year of “AI in everything.” 

One way to generate awareness before, during, and after CES is to ride the wave of attention generated by the year’s dominant trends. You can do this in one of two ways.

The first is simply to “go with the flow” and “piggyback” on the trending narrative by affirming it. (This amounts to throwing your brand in the pile that the media is already sorting through for newsworthy content.)

The second way—a more advanced move, often best left to PR pros—is to take a provocative approach where you strategically leverage the trending narrative by countering it. (This amounts to putting an intriguing spin on the trending narrative, outright opposing it, or inventing a new and better one altogether that differentiates your brand from everyone else.)

Choose a PR partner that’s mastered both digital marketing and digital PR, especially how to put it to work in this new era. 

Volkswagen did just that. By partnering with Cerence to incorporate ChatGPT AI into their vehicles, Volkswagen not only embraced the voice-activated trend but partnered with one of the biggest names in AI to offer an engaging and conversational experience for drivers. 

The best part? Volkswagen already prepared an over-the-air update for Q2 2024 that would allow drivers to ask more complex questions and get more detailed answers using the same voice assistant they’ve been using all along. And that’s how you leverage trends at CES into a long-tail PR initiative. 

Putting aside the PR part of CES for a moment, just getting your product show-ready is a feat in and of itself, whether you’re showing it in person or in a virtual setting. One client, a former Olympic silver medalist, joked that he worked harder to prepare for CES than he did for the Games.

CES really is a bit like the Olympics of the tech world. Serious athletes (brands) know they’ll need a coach (or, in this case, a PR partner that’s mastered new media) in order to successfully compete for attention in the highly crowded, chaotic, and noisy arena of product exhibitors—and that’s true whether you’re physically in a massive exhibit hall, or jostling for viewers’ attention on an online platform.

Even for established brands with in-house agencies, partnering in a consultative capacity with a team fluent in digital media and PR can be the difference between making a splash vs. creating a perfect storm of attention, influence, and impact.

For example, in our recent PR work for the launch of Forbes8, an incredible new streaming platform designed to support, inspire, empower, and celebrate diverse entrepreneurs across the world (how’s that for some exciting tech?!), we partnered with Forbes’ in-house agency in a collaborative effort that drew on both Forbes’ own insight and knowledge of their brand, and on our wide-ranging expertise to pack double the punch.

But you don’t have to be an established brand like Forbes (or have a Forbes-sized budget!) to get noticed in a big way at CES. For instance, we attracted major media attention and delivered serious wins at a large trade show for a small start-up tech client with limited resources. By creating a simple, low-budget, yet newsworthy experiential activation (combined with amplification through social media), we garnered coverage in top publications and beat out Fortune 100 competitors with 10x the space and budget!

In another example from CES 2023, Zen Media took the reins for New Cosmos USA’s groundbreaking launch of DeNova Detect. Despite the daunting backdrop of 4,200 annual home fires stemming from natural gas explosions and a politically charged atmosphere surrounding natural gas appliances, New Cosmos held its ground. Their mission? To champion the merits of natural gas, all while putting safety front and center.

We stepped up with a dynamic two-fold approach, weaving a cohesive brand story that captivated both media and target audience alike by creating interest and sharing it through targeted outreach. 

First, the PR team wrote and distributed a press release with the national newswire and targeted trade outlets in the natural gas appliance, safety, and consumer technology industries. The PR team maintained momentum by securing newsjacking and thought leadership opportunities, getting New Cosmos’ business leaders in front of large audiences and in numerous publications with earned media coverage and multiple byline, podcast, and television opportunities.

Consistency in messaging was key and we emphasized placing New Cosmos as “the voice of reason” across every channel, a message that was loud and clear, resonating with the media and the brand’s target audience. We amplified each press hit across social media, leaning on reach-extending best practices like tagging relevant publications, people, and organizations. 

The results? A staggering 689% surge in their share of voice and deals with multiple major bix-box retailers. And as the cherry on top, the Las Vegas City Mayor’s Office chimed in, christening January 6 as the official Natural Gas Safety Awareness Day. This triumphant tale at CES vividly highlights the prowess of a robust PR strategy in steering the narrative.

A team that lives, breathes, and sleeps the modern media landscape can be invaluable in navigating the complexities of new media and effectively activating awareness of your brand before, during, and after CES through:

  • Identifying ideal outlets for your brand’s audiences
  • Connecting directly with press representatives
  • Securing coverage in top-tier publications
  • Compiling media kits
  • Generating social media awareness of and engagement with your brand
  • Creating digital experiential activations
  • Engaging influencers
  • And much more

Mobilize for the right media event to meet your goals

While it’s true that CES is the Olympics of tech trade shows, you could also say it’s a lot like a giant, multi-day potluck dinner with countless dishes to choose from.

Just as you’d never dream of hosting a dinner party without sending out invitations or making guests aware of available menu options, you don’t want to go to the trouble of gearing up for CES without mobilizing for one of the three big media-only events.

Additional insights for finding your Zen at CES

In addition to the four primary approaches we just covered for ensuring your brand achieves lift-off at CES, a handful of more granular tactics can contribute to a successful launch.

Orchestrate media embargoes.

A critical part of your larger B2B PR strategy is to get your ducks in a row well before CES begins by creating press releases and other product-promoting pieces that will generate buzz for your brand.

Related reading: 5 Tips to Write a Killer Press Release [+ Free Template]

You’ll need to work directly with your target media outlets to place these pieces under embargo until a predetermined date during CES when they’ll gain maximum reach and garner maximum engagement.

Now that influencers have access to media passes, brands need to include influencer engagement in their embargo strategy. This means identifying key influencers in your industry who will be attending CES and reaching out to them with exclusive information.  

Arranging coverage ahead of time for your product is absolutely essential. Brands that delay are almost certain to be disqualified from consideration due to the sheer numbers seeking coverage within the brief window of CES. If your brand lacks experience in securing coverage, we can help.

Strut your stuff.

Remember your grade school science fair or art contest? Remember being attracted to the science experiments or artworks with blue ribbons attached to them because you had to see just what was so great about Katie’s baking soda volcano (experiential activation at its finest!) or Aaron’s watercolor rendering of his family’s lawnmower?

Some things never change, and brands that can play up the awards they’ve won—in prominent ways, of course—will be that much more successful at attracting their audiences to their booth and getting them to engage with their activations.

Ready to hit the ground running with an industry-leading, award-winning digital marketing and PR firm that can help you generate massive buzz around your brand at CES? 

It’s never too early to start planning. Reach out to us today!

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