CES and the Shift in Consumer Expectations: An Interview with Cindy Gustafson

Gustafson at the Refinery29 Suite at CES: “It marries to the sensor commentary… the mannequin is wearing a yoga outfit that buzzes you when your pose is off!”


We sat down with Cindy Gustafson, the head of Mindshare’s Invention Studio (a unit dedicated to driving creativity in media) to get her take on this year’s Consumer Electronics Show.

1) What do you think is the most important tech trend coming for marketers, both this year and further down the line?

While popular consensus has been that augmented reality and virtual reality have years to go before they really experience growth, I actually don’t think it’s that far off. We’ve seen a few partners that have already developed interactive content experiences, and we’ve seen increasing brand appetites for that medium. I think that brands are going to demand AR/VR experiences faster than the industry expects – and then that will help drive content.

Sensor technology, without a doubt, is growing steadily and feeding into the world of connected everything. At Mindshare we’ve already developed programs in 2015 that leverage sensors (for example: the biometrics program with Degree Women and So You Think You Can Dance), and will continue to do so.

As for further down the line, there’s been a lot of discussion about autonomous driving. It’s certainly an exciting piece of technology, but I think that some people are underestimating what a shift in this kind of consumer behavior this will mean – and why that means it’ll take a lot more time for this trend to come to fruition. Giving up control of your car isn’t a small thing, and looking at the larger picture, it’s such a gamechanger for what else you may put into the hands of someone else.

2) Tell us more about what you mean by about the shifts in consumer expectations.

For example, let’s look at how Uber has shifted people’s expectations – everyone gets irritated now if they have to wait more than a few minutes for a car or taxi. Think about that behavior and what that’s instigated – a similar type of pervasive shift would happen if more and more people starting turning over control of their car to autonomous driving.

There’s another shift to think about with the growth of AR and VR. Kevin Spacey said this well in his CES keynote, that when motion pictures were introduced a century ago, people were overwhelmed by it. It seems almost funny to think about now. As we start to experience more immersive content through AR and VR, we’ll start to see new consumer expectations for storytelling.

3) What are the key considerations for marketers looking to leverage the new tech at CES?

First and foremost, brands needs to facilitate a value exchange for their consumers, instead of just using new technology for technology’s sake. As part of that value exchange, marketers can best leverage what’s on the show floor by connecting it to culture. The So You Think You Can Dance program that I mentioned earlier – we took a traditional, very scaleable medium (broadcast) and introduced wearables into it, allowing the dancers to quantify their movements live on TV. For wearables and sensors in particular, there’s a lot of opportunities to quantify the movements at major cultural events. Our U.K. office did that for Wimbledon with Jaguar; just think of the opportunities there could be with other events like the Super Bowl or the Grammys.

There’s a similar opportunity for live cultural events with VR and AR. It’s further off than what’s happening with wearables, but think about the amazing access that VR/AR could offer consumers – like the opportunity to watch the Super Bowl from the third row.