CES will kick off next month for the first time without a physical show floor, but for longtime exhibiting brands like Intel, it’s year two of a pivot strategy already in motion
This time last year, exhibiting brands at industry tentpole CES would have been preparing for move-in. Supersized booths and miles of exhibits within the boundless convention halls would have welcomed in 175,000 attendees and personnel. And for 15 years, Intel was one of the mainstays, an award-winning annual attraction in Central Hall. But last year kicked off a new chapter for the brand in Las Vegas—perhaps, a foreshadowing of a COVID-era movement toward smaller, more personal experiences for attendees.
We sat down for a virtual tea with Experiential Marketing Summit speaker and the force behind Intel’s presence at the show, Victor Torregroza, events program manager, Intel Corp., to talk opportunity, a refreshed marketing landscape and richer b-to-b experiences.
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Event Marketer: Let’s take a step back to earlier this year—pre-COVID, if we can remember it— and talk about the shift Intel made in leaving the show floor for CES 2020.
Victor Torregroza: Intel had already made a step toward leaving the giant, bustling trade show floor for a more personal, valuable and delicious experience by buying out a restaurant. We wanted to get closer to our customers and to the press, analysts and ecosystem partners in an environment that was fun and convenient, and that allowed us to also conduct business and showcase technologies. And it was amazing. They had better access to our executives, access to technology, we were able to customize programming, provide really good food, and we had access to the restaurant almost 24/7.
EM: And what was the feedback?
VT: More and more, the theme toward richer, more meaningful human experiences is what people want, and that applies to any industry. They want to listen and look into each other’s eyes. And our attendees, while the booth was great for them, they loved being invited to a boutique event. They had a custom menu to order from, and they were treated as special human beings regardless of their titles. They also loved the access to preview new technology and then talk to the engineers or the executives behind it. And then there was the ambience. We wrapped the space and worked with an amazing media artist, Refik Anadol. We didn’t go over the top, but it was a ‘Goldilocks’ approach… just right.
EM: Outside of the major tentpoles like CES, where do you see opportunity for brands like Intel?
VT: ‘Glocal,’ or global and local, was a buzz term many years ago, and I think that is coming back. It’s a romantic step back in history where marketing experiences will go to the customers in their cities and neighborhoods. Think of the personalized service of Avon, the Fuller Brush man, door-to-door encyclopedia sales—they come to you on your terms and time. Now, I don’t think we’re going to be coming to homes, but there are so many different opportunities to activate locally with a heartfelt mindset that we’re going to keep you safe, we’re going to delight you and then you can go back home to your kids without having to get on an airplane, at least for the next two years.
EM: What’s the biggest hurdle to clear to execute experiences meaningfully in the wake of COVID?
VT: Managing the sensitivity to what’s happening in the world, whether it’s politics, the economy, and the undercurrent of everything that is just so volatile. There is this whole other wrapper now that every single brand and industry has to be aware of and that’s safety, quality and that sincere understanding that so much is happening to everyone. It’s combining the comforts of society with the purpose of business.
EM: How do you see the marketing landscape changing in the next year for the better?
VT: That digital is now front and center, and when physical comes back, digital is still going to be the lead experiential vehicle for any brand in any industry, because it is now proven. They’re not the same, but they will complement each other. Digital will grow, become richer, and physical will become a local, cultural extension of the digital experience. My personal opinion is I don’t see giant exhibits returning anytime soon.
EM: Speaking of digital, Intel held a virtual product launch event in September. What did your team learn from that experience?
VT: We had it under lock and key, it was invitation only. But what I’m seeing with other brands like Apple—all their launches are up on the website open to the world, amazing launches. Apple had over 52 million people tune into its recent launch. So one of the biggest things I’m learning is: Why are we gating? It’s information that we want to make available, so why not just make it available to the world. We have an opportunity to re-engineer the entire experience for CES 2021. You’ll see a lot of our content is open and available. People will be able to easily access our content.
EM: You talked about ‘joy’ during your session at the Experiential Marketing Summit. Maybe it’s the fact that we’re ending the year amid a third wave, but we keep coming back to that insight.
VT: We’re all marketing. We’re all doing things we’ve got to produce. We’ve got to conduct the business. But we could all use a little bit of goodness, whether it comes from the content or a piece of video—a little spark of sunshine. When a brand delivers that, it’s pretty remarkable.