Zehnder Communications, Inc.

On the Cutting Edge at CES 2019, Part III

This is part 3 of our ongoing recap from CES. If you missed our previous recaps, click here for Day 1 or Day 2.

Rob Hudak, our Creative Technologist, spent a few days at CES taking in cutting edge technology and thinking about how we can best use it for our clients. He felt that Google made a particularly strong impact, and drove home the point that the tech isn’t everything. Here’s how: 

“Hey Google, do you know where the restroom is?”

Though it was a serious inquiry, my delivery of that line got me a laugh from the man wearing a white jumpsuit and a stocking cap with the words Hey Google written across it. He is one of the many assistants that are helping Google promote their new product, Assistant, Google’s answer to the Amazon Echo.

“Hey Google” is the command you use to activate the Google Assistant. On the way to the convention center, you couldn’t miss the monorail wrapped in white with the giant words “Hey Google” in bold black typeface. The words “Hey Google” seemed to be everywhere in and around CES – on trains, buses, billboards – you name it. 

Anyone can buy ad space to take over an environment. But when it came to experiential marketing at CES, Google, in my opinion, took home the prize. Throughout every touchpoint of the experience Google created at CES, I felt the ease of use of this device, without ever actually using the device.

The experience was enhanced particularly by the Google “Assistants” – not the actual product, but human beings dressed in white jumpsuits and knit hats with brand-colored pom poms with the words “Hey Google” on them. Like my friend who helpfully pointed out the nearest restroom, they were personifications of the product and were everywhere at the conference. Helpful and friendly, they humanized and complemented the idea of the product as a great user experience.

There was the giant gumball machine of prizes that used Google Assistant as the interface, the line for which had a 120-minute wait. But the human Google assistants kept the crowd excited. Getting people in line to sing songs and chants while they waited and helping people through the entire large footprint of diverse experiences promoting the Google Assistant technology.

Hey Google building and Google “The Ride”

I was hesitant to go into the Google Assistant building that showcased the Google Assistant connected smart home, thinking it would be crowded. But it was getting cold outside and, if anything, I could keep warm in there. So, I popped in and peeked at the smart home products, contemplating the minimal design choice of the row of regular-sized gumball machines that complemented the 30-foot gumball machine outside. Then, suddenly, I was talking to two Google assistants – the human kind.

“Would you like to take a survey about what you’ve seen here today?” one of them asked.

“Actually, I just came in. It looks like there are a few private parties going on – is there anything I can see that’s not closed off?”

“Do you want to take the ride?” They pointed me toward an exit to where a “Google Ride” awaited me upstairs.

Suddenly, I had two more people with “Hey Google” hats helping me. They led me to the lift. When I got in, two more assistants at the top of the lift waited for my thumbs up.

At the top of the lift I found myself on the platform of a full-tilt amusement park ride – very much like Disney’s “It’s a Small World” – where CES attendees waited to get into a roller coaster car to go on a trip that would tell a story of the hectic day of a dad who is helped by using Google Assistant.

The dad in the story is having a hard time: stuck in traffic, trying to get a birthday cake, getting to a bakery where they only speak French, getting caught in a thunderstorm, you get the picture. The entire time a Google Assistant screen on the dashboard of your roller coaster car is reacting to the situations in the ride. Helping the man find his way out of traffic, translating French for him at the bakery. The whole story unfolds in a song that sounds straight out of a Broadway musical.

The ride was genuinely fun, and when it was over – the Google “assistants” were there to help me back down the lift. When I got to the bottom, they helped me get a macaron at the Google branded macaron shop. It stood next to a row of kiosks where you received a picture from your ride and a chance to win a Google Assistant. The macarons, like the gumballs, are extensions of the colorful circles used in the product branding and digital experience of Google Assistant, and are also a visual from the French bakery chapter of the ride I just took.

It suddenly occurred to me that this whole time I was smiling, and possibly dumbstruck, if only because I couldn’t believe that Google had pulled off this incredible feat of keeping their product marketing message so on point, entertaining and informative throughout the entire experience.

Takeaway from Day 3

You don’t need to showcase bendable screens or flying cars, or have a footprint the size of Google, to create a good brand experience at CES. As long as your message is carried through and reinforced at every touch-point you are on the right track. Oh, and a tasty macaron at the end of the experience can’t hurt.

“Hey Google. Nice Job!”


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