Strategy Session: Net Impressions of CES 2018

Strategy Session: Net Impressions of CES 2018


As my plane landed at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, my mind (and legs) geared up for another CES. At the show, I walked miles and miles through the halls of the LVCC, with virtually the entire consumer electronics world attempting to make an impression. This is not an easy thing to do. As I roamed the halls, I decided to climb into the minds of the marketers of the imaging industry. I visited each booth with the objective of trying to understand what each company was trying to say. What net impression did they wish to leave?

My first stop was Central Hall. It is home to major imaging players like Canon, Nikon, Sony and Panasonic. Other connected companies, including Polaroid, Vivitar and Tiffen, also reside there. After years of making this trip, their locations were no secret to me. Canon is always hugging the wall on the north side of the hall, backing up to Sony. Panasonic is historically up front, and Nikon moves each year to keep us all guessing.   CTA-CES-LogosMy first stop was Panasonic. Celebrating their 100th anniversary this year, Panasonic’s goal was to “introduce the company’s future vision that will pave the way for the next 100 years.” Roaming their property reminded me a little bit of a Disney futuristic ride, complete with connected cars, connected homes and connected airplane seats. But when I searched for their imaging products, I had a hard time connecting.

The good news is, after a chat with Dan Unger, Panasonic’s Corporate Communications manager, he left me with the strong impression that their camera business is growing and profitable—a bright spot in their consumer products division.

Next was Nikon—always a shining sea of yellow and black. My first and long-lasting impression is that THIS is an imaging company—nothing more, nothing less! Their enormous stage offered a continuing cast of professional photographers who demonstrated their incredible talents and the capabilities of Nikon equipment. A special treat was astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent a year on the International Space Station and had the stories and pictures to prove it.

Astronaut Scott Kelly on the Nikon stage

But along with their usual array of cameras and lenses, Nikon showcased the latest in robotic image capture. They highlighted MRMC (Mark Roberts Motion Control, a Nikon Company).

MRMC creates robotic still and video capture solutions for a wide variety of applications. They range from the world’s largest motion control arm to e-commerce systems built to capture precise details. The live demonstration of a high-speed robot, cameras attached, successfully keeping up with a cast of hip-hop dancers left me with the impression that Nikon is not standing on their laurels. Rather, the company is venturing out into new fields that complement their high-tech expertise in imaging.

Sony had a new look this year—complete with wood-framed edifices that hovered above their elegant black booth. There were live demonstrations (including one featuring my friend Tony Gale) that made me believe that Sony has once again regained its aura of CE invincibility. I attended a live demonstration of the new “connected home” and ogled at their 85-inch OLED TVs. I also noticed their array of cameras and lenses was front and center. Impression: Sony is proud of their heritage, proud of their high-tech standing, and VERY proud of their growth in the imaging industry.

Canon once again welcomed “Visionaries” into their brightly lit booth to talk about Canon technologies that help them create their dreams. “CES 2018 marks our persistent trajectory of redefining the boundaries of innovation and creating business solutions for more imaging-related products,” said Eliott Peck, executive vice president and general manager, Imaging Technologies and Communications Group, Canon USA, Inc., and chairman/CEO, Canon Information Technology Services, Inc. Canon_CES’18_Visionaries-Welcome_Logo-3

“We learned, we listened and we look forward to continuing on this journey as we introduce new visionaries that are leveraging Canon technologies in ways that inspire new concepts of imaging.”

In addition, I was fortunate to have Peck walk me around their booth. He introduced me to the myriad of technologies that are now “powered by Canon.”

Among them were Fellow Robots engaging in real-time inventory scanning demonstrations using Canon cameras and sensors.

I also took in an About Golf simulator that uses Canon projectors. And I viewed a showcase of Canon’s lineup of inkjet card printers, thermal retransfer ID card printers and label printers. The printers are designed to offer on-demand printing with professional-quality output.

He also pointed out some future camera prototypes. They address the “fun” aspect of photography for millennials who are now dependent on smartphones for their picture taking. “We can show them that they can take better images that are worthy of printing with cameras they can carry around their necks,” said Peck.

Canon’s use of their CES space was certainly unique. Rather than showcase their existing products, they demonstrated how their technologies and high-tech capabilities will enable them to create new businesses. My net impression: Smart!

Polaroid Originals’ giant OneStep 2

Here are other quick Central Hall impressions. Polaroid: Colorful, bold, creative. Their oversized OneStep 2 camera certainly made an impression. Tiffen:  Same old, same old. I saw a need to update their image.

Net Impressions of South Hall

My walk into South Hall’s virtual reality space was another story. Just imagine drones flying around, robots calling out your name and VR cameras demonstrating their 360º images on overwhelming screens.

Here are a few quick impressions.

Humaneyes Technologies: This company really stepped up their game from my last impression of them at PhotoPlus Expo in October. From their stage area and a Vuze broadcast booth to highly enlightening demonstrations, this company looks like it’s here to stay.

Kodak PixPro: While understated, PixPro has a certain confidence around the Kodak brand name, and their focus on their products. They showcased many commercial applications that make sense. They are also looking toward the future.

AEE Technology: This seems like a small but fierce company, looking at the consumer drone space. My net impression was for them to go after the big boys by appealing to the simplicity of their products.

All in all, CES 2018 is a battle for mind impressions. I can’t overstate enough how jam-packed every inch of floor space is. It demonstrated how many, like those in our industry, are thinking strategically about their messaging and the corporate impression they want to leave in front of thousands of attendees. Very positive.