Consumer Electronics Show. South by Southwest. Auto shows. Comic-Con. E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo). Multiple industries rely on annual trade shows to unveil new products and interact with not just the trade, but with consumers. It’s something like a professional show-and-tell, with major brands and companies offering new product demonstrations and announcing their latest innovations that set them apart from industry competitors and attempt to attract consumers. With developments in digital, social media, and mobile, the importance of live, in-person displays and face-to-face consumer engagement has not faded for the industry and some may even argue, it’s become even more important. Brands can often rely on the hype surrounding conventions and trade shows to boost sales, brand recognition, and loyalty, and companies can also tap in to what consumers want at these shows to inform future research and development. Take Sony Computer Entertainment, for instance. A true innovator for decades and a company that bridges a variety of sectors to unveil new products, entertainment, and updated consumer favorites, Sony’s panels and booths at industry shows are often the most-anticipated and best-attended. So how important are trade shows for Sony Computer Entertainment and what can we learn from the popular tech brand’s trade show tactics?
The Way I See It
- I see trade shows offering the industry a rare opportunity to market and advertise in a way that truly puts the features and capabilities of their products on display. Mainstream ads and commercials for products like gaming consoles are often more creative than product and feature-driven, so trade shows around the U.S. put the newest features on display.
- I see trade shows for most industries filled with consumers who are “industry-junkies” of sorts, allowing brands and companies to get more technical and high-level in their displays and presentations.
- I see trade shows playing an important role in building momentum, creating excitement and motivating industry players and consumers.
- I see trade shows now reaching wider audiences, thanks to videos of product announcements and presentations being posted on YouTube and other social networks, or even live-streamed by brands. The Consumer Electronics Show in January is the most important stage for technology and entertainment, and many brands strategically connect live-presentations with social and digital media so that consumers who cannot attend in-person still feel that they’re a part of it.
The Way the Industry Sees It
I sat down with Guy Longworth, Senior Vice President, PlayStation Brand Marketing at Sony Computer Entertainment America, to discuss the gaming and tech giant’s recent memorable trade show performances and how important trade shows are to the company.
At CES in January, Sony came out hot and received a great amount of praise. Everyone was talking about Sony’s impressive booth and all of the goods on display, including the PlayStation 3 console and PlayStation Vita. How important is your physical presence at a trade show and, without giving away any secrets, how do you strategize about what to include and how to display the items?
Trade shows are an important component in our marketing mix. They provide an excellent venue for us to showcase products and to launch new initiatives. We benefit from considerable PR, which we would find it difficult to replace without the focus of a show. We spend considerable time determining clear objectives for each trade show with a focus on the future product pipeline which informs our decision making process in terms of what is included and how it is displayed.
In your opinion, is the real value of successful runs at trade shows, including E3 and CES, for building brand reputation and hype or for introducing new products to make consumers race to stores to buy? Obviously, brand reputation leads to sales in the long-run, but what’s the value, from a marketing perspective, of unveiling a product that customers won’t be able to purchase for a good amount of time?
The gaming industry is the largest segment of the entertainment industry, which thrives on “what’s next” and has a successful history of building excitement and momentum for new platforms, games, and services by announcing them early. Securing pre-orders and building purchase intention are critical elements of any marketing campaign and trade shows provide an excellent platform to launch new products.
Panels and new product demonstrations are mainstays for the gaming industry, and Sony has mastered them. Let’s talk about Sony’s latest new product announcement in February for the long-awaited PlayStation 4. The two-hour presentation included demos of games to show enhanced graphics and resolution. What are the core elements Sony includes in a gaming announcement to demonstrate the highlights of the product?
It really depends on the product or service we are launching. Clearly there is a massive difference between launching the next gen console vs. an AAA game or a new digital service. We do not have a set formula as we believe that building bespoke announcements is the best strategy.
How do brands distinguish themselves from competitors at trade shows? What marketing tactics do Sony and other brands employ at trade shows to grow brand recognition and establish brand loyalty among attendees?
We focus on what we have to offer and are very clear going into the event what our objectives are. Once we understand this, we tailor all elements of the event to deliver against these objectives. We use a wide range of marketing tactics, as do all the major players right across the marketing mix.
The new PlayStation 4 will be much more social – players can broadcast their games in real time, friends can check in on others’ games, and players can upload recordings of themselves and share them. How important is the social element for gaming, especially now in the digital age?
Social is an increasingly important aspect of the gaming industry for many gamers. That said, there are still large numbers of gamers who are very happy with great single player games and don’t have a desire for socially connected gaming. We clearly believe that the social elements within our PS4 value proposition will be very appealing to a lot of gamers, but the most important thing is to offer choice and options to gamers to decide for themselves how social an experience they want.
What’s the coolest object in your office right now?
I have a customized PS3 that one of my team had made for me. It comes with a beautifully carved wooden case with my initials and symbols representing various interests of mine. Everyone who comes in my office always comments on how cool it is.