A group of C-suite executives from some of the world's biggest companies are seated around a table at Spago, listening to Alex Gold talk about Buzzstarter, an online marketing company he co-founded more than a year ago.
"You can't rely on the public to circulate quality content anymore, there's too much to compete with," Gold says. "The future of reaching consumers is through heightened content distribution."
This is the type of conversation you hear at a lot of the parties and swanky events that accompany this giant technology trade show. It's the second year that Gold and his co-founder, Kenzi Wang, have hosted a post-CES dinner for companies they are hoping to partner with in the coming year. They say it has given them a stronger and more personal opportunity to pitch their company and network with influential people in the corporate world. The point they want to make: our company understands what you're dealing with and we're here to help.
Startups to the Rescue
As technology changes, large brands are struggling to meet the demands of an ever-changing (and quickening) business environment. At the dinner, some of the companies involved said they've been seeking startups that develop new methods to effectively engage audiences online. While most large companies have created digital marketing departments to stay on top of the most current technological trends, the sheer size of these businesses often prevents them from moving quickly enough. As a result, more and more companies are turning to startups to find new, innovative ways of capturing the public's attention.
"It works out quite well actually," says Lou Paik, Shopper Marketing Manager for Danone, the famous yogurt giant. "The best startups are able to continuously adopt to the public's needs and desires and we have the funds to help them do what they do best. Making these connections is part of what my goals are when I come to CES."
The secret dinner also gives brand managers the chance to tell startups what they think their needs may be in the future. This has the effect of actually helping the startup founders plan for how they may want to adjust their products in order to meet possible future demands. It's a mutualistic relationship in that the startups tell the brands what they can do for them in the present while the brands speak on what the startups can do down the line.
"It's very different from a pitch on the convention floor," says Bryce Goodwin, Brand Manager at Bacardi USA, "We get to sit with them, and have an honest conversation about what our company does very well and what we hope to do very well in a few years."
CES and a Fear of Missing Out
It's no secret that investors and top brand managers are always on the look out for the next big thing. Their livelihood depends on it. Whether you're an investor, entrepreneur or consumer attending CES, there is a palpable sense of this. There's this idea that if you don't dip your toes in and get up to date with the latest trends at least a bit, you're going to miss out. In a way, both the brand managers and startups at the dinner are trying to use that to their advantage on each other.
Consider a recent NY Times article about the "Internet of Things" and it's prevalence at this year's CES. According the article, the market for Internet of Things devices and services will more than triple by 2020 and will be worth in excess of $7 trillion. However, the bulk of these connected devices for homes and cars haven't even hit shelves yet. Nonetheless, everyone wants to be a part of it when they do.
This could mean a very successful trip to CES for companies within certain trending industries like the Internet of Things or advertising technology.
"There's a lot of excitement around marketing technology right now" says Wang of Buzzstarter. "In the next couple of years, multiple billion dollar businesses will emerge out of this space to become the size of Uber and Airbnb"