For the past few years, its focus has been on concept cars with huge screens that can drive themselves while their passengers watch video, and connected home devices for the Internet of Things.
In the same way your automobile can inform you that it’s running low on fuel, the most advanced refrigerators can both alert you that you’re running low on milk. But unlike the car, appliances can now connect to your home digital assistant (Apple Home, Google Assistant, or Amazon’s Echo) to help you order more.
This year’s most unusual Internet of Things products include a smart breast pump for nursing mothers and a smart toothbrush with a video camera that takes pictures of the inside of your mouth that you can share with your dentist — or your mom, if you’re a kid. And there was also Hair Coach, a smart hairbrush.
Yes, many of these gadgets are silly, and that’s part of the fun of CES.
But others are going to evolve into platforms through which brands will be able to talk to consumers. The most obvious platform so far has been the connected car, because now that all cars have display screens built into their dashboards there’s an opportunity to think of the car as “publishing” content to its passengers, whether it be diagnostics or entertainment. And where there is publishing, there is also a marketing opportunity. To that end, Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) has partnered with Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) to use the Alexa voice technology in its cars next year. Other automakers have chosen to partner with Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) for its Siri technology, or Android for Google Assistant.
The car as a platform is forced to use voice technology because of safety concerns. However, household appliances are not limited that way, and in the next few years they will also become publishers of a sort, delivering information about themselves to consumers and collecting consumer data in return.
In 2017, there will be many other new platforms we can consider as publishers, and those publishers will hope to monetize through advertising — but not in the old way. It’s been 20 years since publishing started going digital, and it is almost shameful that we’re still — for the most part — serving up digital versions of the same formats we used in print and TV.
A better example of what is to come in the future is Weiden+Kennedy’s effort to build a virtual cellular network for Verizon within a Minecraft game. The network allows players to make phone calls. Call that a native ad, call it a sponsorship, call it a product placement, or whatever you wish; that’s where the market is headed.
Like it or not, everything you own in the future is going to collect information from you, and the best products are also going to serve up useful content. Even if it’s just about themselves.
Francine Hardaway is a serial entrepreneur, brand strategist and CEO of Stealthmode Partners, an accelerator for entrepreneurs. Reach her at email@example.com