It’s the Super Bowl for nerds — a place where the future is unveiled alongside a pile of the most ill-conceived, useless crap humans can dream up.
We’re talking about the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which now looms on the not so distant horizon of everyone who has anything to do with consumer-facing technology.
In recent years, as crowdfunding has become an important part of hardware development, Vegas’ biggest trade show has come to occupy a new position in the minds of entrepreneurs bent on creating the next big thing.
Indeed, if the legions we talk to in our work are to be believed, the event is a wonderful time to launch a crowdfunding campaign.
The logic goes like this: CES is attended by more than 7,000 media reps, ergo, getting exposure is easy. These media reps won’t ever be in one place again, so if your campaign is not live, you miss out. People also tell us that it’s full of early-adopter geeks who are ready to back campaigns.
As PR pros, this line of reasoning scares the living shit out of us.
Here are four reasons to avoid launching your crowdfunding campaign at CES.
It’s a festival of shiny objects
Whatever device you’re planning to launch on Kickstarter is inevitably beyond cool. However, some of the gadgets the estimated 3,887 other exhibitors at CES have created may also be interesting.
The show is a veritable tech candy shop, where there’s always something to be amazed by. Launching in this environment means you’re competing with many other players. Some of these, like, say, Lenovo, Ford or LG, are huge, proven brands with monster budgets, and they to tend to hog more than their share of media coverage.
The kinds of coverage CES generates
While the volume of noise at CES makes it hard to break through, even if you do, you’re product is likely to be covered in a way that’s not ideal. We don’t mean negatively, but rather the “grouped-in coverage” that’s a hallmark of big tech outlets’ output at CES. Being part of a piece on “X cool things we saw at CES on day one” is not a horrible thing, but it’s definitely not as good as having an entire piece written about your product.
In an era where trust is critical, backers want to see in-depth coverage and reviews. Your chances of getting these at CES are small.
The inability to do PR properly
PR for crowdfunding campaigns is unique because of their inherent time sensitivity. You need media to drop in the first 72 hours of a campaign, which is when they’re lost or won.
A key tactic for making this happen is to do a pre-launch demo under embargo. The ideal period for these encounters is a week to 10 days before your launch. This way there’s not an excessively long embargo to manage and media reps still have time to put together their stories.
However, CES runs from January 5-8, which makes it impossible to properly time your demos. You won’t get many folks looking to demo your product between Christmas and New Year’s Day, so you’ll have to demo in mid-December. This option means you’ll either be forgotten come launch time or an outlet will break your embargo (which is about as fun as a trip to the dentist).
CES runs during the height of the Holiday Spending Hangover. It’s conceivable that those who launch in this period have a death wish.
How can CES be of use to your crowdfunding effort?
Just because CES is a bad place to launch your campaign doesn’t mean you should spend all your time in Vegas gambling and partying.
The event presents a great opportunity to meet prospective investors, partners, backers and the media. In terms of future campaign backers, we strongly suggest having a highly visible place at your booth where people can sign up to get on your email list. Your email database is the foundation upon which good crowdfunding campaigns are built. You can do lot on this front at CES.
The show provides a good chance to begin the “cozying up” process with journalists and bloggers. Use your time on the event floor to book later-date demos with media reps who come by your booth. The key is to show only certain elements of your product at CES and save the “wow” moment for the meetings that will eventually occur when you are ready to launch.