Episode 52: Preparing for the 2018 CES

If you’ve ever attended Consumer Electronics Show (CES) then you know it is a beast of a show with more than 4,000 exhibiting companies and covering the 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space is next to impossible especially as you are fighting through crowds of 170,000+. It might sound too overwhelming but having attended regularly since 1988 and as a marketer hoping to spot trends, I can assure you it is always worth the trouble. Inevitably, I leave CES with some new ideas, at least one new friend and a dousing of Vegas silliness.

With the 2018 CES right around the corner (Jan 8-11, 2018), I thought it would be helpful and interesting to record a special episode with the legendary tech guru Shelly Palmer.  I first met Shelly back in 2010 (when I wrote about him as the prototypical personal brand on FastCompany.com) and have spotted his ubiquitous signs at CES ever since. [Blatant unpaid plug — if you are new to CES, have a limited time frame or just want to make sure you don’t miss the big trends while you’re in Vegas, then you’d be wise to sign up for a tour of the show by Shelly and his team at The Palmer Group.]  As for my earlier point about Shelly being interesting to talk to, he didn’t disappoint!

In the podcast, we discuss why he’s excited about this year’s show and why expects to see more evolutionary products than revolutionary ones. We dive into hot topics like drones, cars, VR and AI among others. You’ll also hear Shelly school me on why I’m wrong to call Alexa (Amazon voice activation system) dumb just because she can’t infer the request Dear Evan Hansen from Evan Hansen when a Google search does that handily!  The tech challenge aside, I still think she has some cognitive development work ahead of her!  You can listen to the special episode here.

Here are a few other highlights from the interview:

Drew: What should marketers be paying attention to at this year’s CES?

Shelly: This year at CES, we’re going to have a really good look at integrations between the natural language understanding tools and the physical world. I’m pretty sure you’re going to see a lot of augmented reality because that is the toolset that is most flexible. You need great programming skills but it also yields amazing benefits – everything from a doctor looking into an incubator and seeing a heads-up display of all of the vital signs of the patient to gameplay and 100% of everything in the middle. You’ll see a lot of augmented reality. Drones and machine learning. Drones are now self-flying for the most part and there’s a bunch of companies who have taken to creating machines that not only fly themselves but with either high definition or 4k cameras in them and in some cases 8k cameras in them. And in some cases infrared cameras in them. They’re doing materials processing in the air. They can look at an insurance company like Travelers, who are the number one user of drones in the United States, and put a drone up in the air to look at the exterior damage. They can understand what happened to your roof in the air and file and process your claim without having someone go out to your house. When you think about a hurricane like we’ve had and the ability to quickly process and quickly get people the help they need who are insured, you’ll see a lot of that at CES. A lot of drone companies showing off their ability to have not only self-flying drones, but drones that can carry bigger payloads, can take better cameras with them, and fly in inclement weather or in adverse conditions that you wouldn’t have seen before. The drone story is going to be pretty big.

Drew: What else is going to be big?

Shelly: The cars are going to be out in force – driver assistance of every kind. Autonomy is coming. There’s never a lack of cool cars at CES. It’s more fun than the auto show because for us who are all semi-geeks about the technology, they come and they put their tech foot forward as opposed to their design foot forward or this guy with 500 horsepower or whatever. You’re going to see great TVs, but we haven’t had a year with a bad TV in 20 years. Let me tell you about the TVs. I can tell you I haven’t seen them yet. Let me tell exactly what I’m going to say when I get to stand in front of any TV; it’s bigger. It’s thinner. It’s got a brighter picture, higher dynamic range, wider color gamut, bigger screen, thinner. That’s sort of the joke at CES. It used to be a TV show. Now the TVs just get better.

Drew: Is there anything new that’s coming to CES?  

Shelly: What you will see this year that you haven’t seen so much before is how well integrated the home is becoming. Honestly, it is Alexa’s voice services and all of NLP systems that have caused this. Because if you think about it, when you walk in the house you have to open an app, tap a couple of buttons, open another app, and press a couple more buttons. It’s like, “Oh come on, stop it! I’ll just turn the light switch on.” But now you walk in and you say, “Alexa, lights on. Alexa, daytime scene.” Whatever you want. And boom, the house is set. The value proposition for consumers is so great. Everybody’s jumping on that. Look for integrations in ways you’ve never seen them.

CMO Personal Branding Worksheet

Personal-Branding-Naming-AlternativesI recently had the pleasure of leading a session on Personal Branding at The CMO Club Summit with Evan Greene, the CMO of Grammys.  The session was really well attended and it was clear by all accounts that this was an area of great interest to senior marketers. The following is a document I prepared for the attendees that is a compilation of guidance team Renegade found from a number of sources (see credits at the bottom).

Why CMOs Need to Care About Their Personal Brand

  • Enhances your value to your current employer.
  • No job is forever.
  • If you don’t control your reputation, someone else will (i.e. Google)

 Personal Brand Statement Overview

  • A short and sweet statement that describes who you are and what you bring to the table. It answers the questions, “what makes you great?” and “what makes you compelling?” but should not be confused with a mission statement (which tend to be more lofty and less job specific).
  • You could be a “reliable, strategic planner” or “a innovative professional connector.” Or, your statement might be something like, “inspiring others to excel.” Are you amazingly well organized? Do people enjoy working with you for your fantastic sense of humor?
  • Your brand statement should be consistent with how others perceive you. Don’t describe yourself as a team builder if your team thinks otherwise.  However, if you have hit some professional brick walls, it may be time for reinvention and it is okay therefore to make your brand statement aspirational.

 Three Components to Consider

  1. Figure out your emotional appeal
    1. How do people benefit from working with me?
    2. How do CEOs benefit from working with me?
    3. How do I make people feel?
    4. What words do others use to describe me?
  2. Determine your description
    1. What field or industry am I in (or do I want to be in)?
    2. What are the words I would use to describe my work?
    3. Who is my target audience?
  3. Describe your role
    1. What service do I have to offer people / companies?
    2. What do I do that makes me stand out from everyone else?


Draft Your Personal Brand Statement (here are a few statement starters)

All modesty aside, I am great because_________________________________________________

Yes! I am compelling because______________________________________________________

But seriously, I am special because___________________________________________________

I am different from your average CMO because…________________________________________

Making it Real: Getting Started

If you say you’re an innovative leader you better innovate on the job and lead a productive team.  If you claim to be a results-driven marketer then you should have the case histories with hard data to back it up. Now we can consider all the things you can do to build your personal brand beyond simply doing your job:

  • Basic Appearance: Are you dressing the part?  Does your business card reflect your personal brand statement?  Your resume should express & support your personal statement.
  • Social Basics: Do your social profiles back up your statement?  Are they consistent?  If you claim to be digitally savvy or cutting edge, are you on the latest social channels?
  • Social Channels: How many you choose to be active on is up to you but the key word here is active.  The only way to understand and claim social savvy is to be active.
  • Content Creation: If being a thought-leader is an important part of your brand, then you need to demonstrate that by creating content for your personal blog/website and/or for other legitimate publications. If you don’t like writing, find a ghostwriter or better yet, learn to like it. Or make a video.  Whatever you do, your content should be authentically you and focused on what you want to be known for.
  • Content Upgrade: Does the content you post support your personal statement?  If you claim creativity as part of your personal statement, make sure your content is creative.  (Hint: post better content even if that means posting less!)

Making it Real: Additional Tactics

  • Rekindle Old Ties: Contact and meet with old friends.  Make new ones by going to networking events.  Use these encounters to sharpen the elevator version of your personal statement.  No more “same old, same old” responses.
  • Learn A New Skill: This skill should support your brand statement and give you a new area to write about and discuss with peers.

Good Sources on Personal Branding

The above merely scratches the surface on this topic. I have an article in the works that I will share shortly spelling out FLAIC (Focus, Lead, Adapt, Invest, Cultivate), an acronym I whipped up just for the unique challenges of marketing execs.  As always, let me know if you have thoughts to add.

How Shelly Palmer Built his Personal Brand

Four years ago, Shelly Palmer was asked to stop pushing an “advanced media agenda” by the Emmy® Awards Board of Governors after writing a book called “Television Disrupted” that anticipated the transformation of network TV.  The son of Julliard-trained musicians and a composer/producer himself, Shelly was not one to mope over a blown recital.  Instead, he gathered his instruments; forty email addresses, some fellow digital enthusiasts, a lifetime of technical innovations and started a project that focused on emerging media and what they call a “digital life.”

900 business days later, the Shelly Palmer brand is nearly ubiquitous.   He is on practically every media platform from daily newsletters to radio, taxis to Facebook, websites to books and a broadcast TV deal is in the works. His consulting practice is highly lucrative and he gets paid to speak all over the world.  Shelly will tell you he’s been very lucky, but after spending on hour on the phone interviewing him, I can assure you luck has nothing to do with it.  In fact, the success of Shelly Palmer is a beautifully conducted symphony of marketing savvy, revealing a six-movement composition on how to orchestrate a personal brand.

1. Give Away the Melody

The marketing cornerstone of the Shelly Palmer brand is a daily email newsletter that now goes to a whopping 575,000 subscribers.  Noted Palmer, “We take the 3-5 most interesting stories every day, distill them down, contextualize them and try to add value.” Initially, these stories were just provided as headlines, which encouraged readers to visit ShellyPalmer.com to get the whole story and of course learn all about Shelly’s other “products.”  This marketing as service approach led readers to sing Shelly’s praises, for in a world of information overload, he helped them “look like a genius to their bosses and less-informed colleagues every day.”  By “relentlessly putting something of value in people’s mailboxes,” Palmer stayed top of mind as a potential speaker or consultant, like a pop tune you simply can’t shake.

2. Beat Your Measures

Well aware of the need to acquire a steady stream of “customers” cost-effectively, Palmer and Co “took all the available technology to promote a marketing circle.”  Email drove web traffic which drove video plays which led to speaking engagements which led to consulting gigs and so on. But unlike most start-ups, Palmer assigned dollar value metrics to all the things you could do on his website even those without an immediate return.  For example, a newsletter subscriber with a corporate email address was assigned a value of $4 since it would have cost them that much to buy such a name.  By carefully tracking everything from email open-rates, to website loyalty and recency, to conversions, Palmer was also able to make informed improvements over time.  On a side note, Palmer castigated the use of website hits, calling them “how idiots track success.”

3. Try New Tunes

As a small company, Palmer noted that “it was easy for us to test things and we tried a dozen different experiments with radio, all of which we screwed up.”  Eventually they got it right, partnering with the United States Radio Network, providing a daily Shelly Palmer Digital Life minute to 218 stations across the country.  They also continued to refine their newsletter approach and recently started providing the whole story instead of just headlines.  Added Palmer, “our website traffic dropped off 50%, however, our conversion against product sales, speaking engagements and email opens went double digit through the roof.”  This new approach also reflected Palmer’s preference to “follow the road, not the map” by adjusting to changing circumstances with savvy, speed and flexibility.

4. Every Instrument is its Own Art Form

Shelly Palmer cranks out a remarkable 46 different pieces of content on a daily basis.  Knowing that his target expects a consistent level of excellence regardless of the medium, very little of the content is cookie cutter.  Palmer offered, “You can’t repurpose physical media, you need to rebuild it for what it is, radio can’t just be the audio from a video.”  The terse newsletter wouldn’t work as a video nor could it translate into the longer-form thought leadership pieces Shelly writes weekly.  And this level of customization continued with the emergence of social media. Added Palmer, “We were there instantly, putting all our content in the form of questions in order to inspire conversation.”  Since the Shelly Palmer brand is only as strong as each individual communications, he and his team take the time to make each component stand alone, an effort that other marketers would be wise to emulate.

5. Find Your Voice

At one point when Palmer was traveling, a substitute performed on his daily MediaBytes video.  The fans were not amused and hundreds complained.  Thinking that his brand was only about the high quality content that he and his team worked so hard to deliver, Palmer suddenly realized that, “a huge part of what the Shelly Palmer brand is–is Shelly Palmer.”  He doesn’t say this as an egotist but rather with amused resignation that he and the brand are one.  Fortunately this role fits him like the fine suits he wears.  “I love to perform and I get a kick out of it when people tell me that I’m a good speaker,” notes Palmer who is called to the lectern over 50 times a year.  He also noted that as a personal brand, “You gotta be in uniform and always assume you are being watched—so I try to comport myself that way.”

6. Don’t Play Every House

When offering advice to other small businesses, Palmer noted “I don’t take every consulting job–I only take the ones that I can do great, make a lot of money for me and my clients and when people learn that I did that, they say ‘Wow’.”  This approach sings volumes about Palmer’s commitment to delivering a product that is of genuine value, whether free or paid.  For his weekly thought leadership article, Palmer imagines that he is writing it for a media maven like Jeff Zucker, making sure he keeps it interesting and “wastes as little time as possible.”  And though Palmer acknowledges that his articles may be “superficially useful for the less digitally literate,” there is always “code” for important digital issues that will spark interest among his more sophisticated consulting clients.

Final note:  Shelly Palmer has been training for this role all his life, writing music since he was four, filing for his first patent in his teens, attending NYU film school, producing EMMY-award winning TV shows and composing over a thousand pieces of music (including “Let’s Go Mets”) that are currently in use on TV or radio.  Like every great musician, Palmer knows that he is only as good as his last performance, an understanding that is sure to keep his brand pitch perfect for many years to come.