HARMAN is excited and ready to head to Las Vegas in the New Year, once again, for the Consumer Electronics Show or CES. Without a doubt, CES is one of the most prominent and strategic events for the technology, automotive and the broader business community. From cutting-edge drones and self-driving cars, to next-generation consumer gadgets and unrivaled enterprise technologies, CES is where the best and biggest future-facing inventions are unveiled. But this wasn’t always the case, CES was a very different kind of show and HARMAN too has been a witness of this evolution. To get a deeper perspective on this transformation, we sat down with veteran CES-Program Head and Senior Director of Marketing for Lifestyle at HARMAN, Chris Dragon.
1. How many years have you been working CES? Can you briefly describe your work in planning and executing CES?
This will be my 31st year at CES, and my 23rd year with HARMAN. At HARMAN, my role at CES has varied a lot. For the past five years, however, I have been responsible for driving the execution of the entire program.
2. How has CES evolved since you first started working the show?
It has truly been amazing to see how CES has evolved with the change in technology and consumer behavior. First held in New York City in 1967, the show was a spinoff of the Chicago Music Show and was all about audio. With advances in video, TV, home entertainment, car audio and portable audio, the scope moved far beyond audio. Today, companies not only use CES as a point in time to show off their latest and greatest offerings, but also to show forward-looking technology and products to gauge interest and solicit feedback. About 15 years ago, automakers started attending CES to see how the aftermarket business approached optimizing audio performance and installations. Since then, car companies have adapted their business and marketing strategy, aligning it all through clever executions at CES. Plus, now many exhibit on their own. Pretty amazing.
3. What were some of the key technologies HARMAN has displayed through the years?
In 1980, HARMAN International was just two years old with only a handful of brands in the portfolio. Around this time JBL was perfecting the use of Titanium as a tweeter diaphragm material, which became one of our original claims-to-fame in audio innovation. On the Harman Kardon side, call this a coincidence, but this was also the year the brand launched the original Citation lineup. This was a line of upmarket component audio products. As many readers may know, we are now relaunching the Citation brand with a line of premium Voice Assistant products with multi-room capability and built-in services, which will be on display at the show this year.
4. What else is different about our exhibit this year?
We continue to evolve our CES activation to best serve our business. We are unique in the fact that we activate all four of our business units at the show. This year, we have moved our primary exhibit from a 16,800 square foot room to a 27,000 square foot room, allowing us to expand our automotive experience and enhance our integration of the Professional Solutions business. We have also developed a tightly integrated automotive experience this year, bringing our Connected Car, Connected Services and Car Audio technologies together to create a more holistic and differentiated story for HARMAN -- versus demoing our auto technologies independently, which is what we have done in past years. For our consumer business, we also have developed new demos for headphones, Voice Assistant products, Harman Kardon Citation and JBL Link products.
5. What is your most memorable CES moment?
There is nothing more exciting than seeing fellow HARMAN employees, customers and suppliers enter the space in amazement for the first time.
6. Why is CES an important event for us?
It is one of the only opportunities for us to provide a comprehensive view of who HARMAN is and demonstrate how we are designing connected experiences to a captive audience of press, customers, suppliers and prospects. CES delivers the highest level of impact and one that cannot be experienced on a conference call or in a conference room. The experience we create at CES ultimately helps support and drive the growth of our businesses.
7. CES is a lot of work. What’s your survival tactic for the show?
In terms of pure survival, you have to eat right, get your rest, take your vitamins and use lots of Purell. But, on a more serious note, it’s all about teamwork, collaboration and planning. We start planning the next show about 90 days after CES wraps. From the planning process to when the doors open, we embrace CES as a team, we lean on each other, we collaborate, we ideate and then we deliver. We have come a long way over the past five years, and our planning team has matured beautifully.
At CES 2019, HARMAN will have its biggest-ever showcase at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Keep an eye on our newsroom, especially from January 7th to 10th 2019, to experience the remarkable solutions, products and technologies we’ll be announcing across the automotive, audio, enterprise and consumer landscape.