I’ve been running my big ol’ yapper at a lot of conferences and conventions in the past few years.
Speaking about social media and integrated marketing suits me well. I’m passionate about both topics, and my animated rants are just what event organizers need to keep people awake during that slot after the box lunch and before the mid-afternoon peanut butter cookies are served.
But while I’ve happily carved out a nice little niche as a speaker, there have been fewer opportunities for me to attend conferences purely as a spectator and industry observer. So when I received an invitation from Sony Professional Products to come and see InfoComm 2013, I jumped at the chance.
What is InfoComm 2013?
"InfoComm International is the trade association representing the professional audiovisual and information communications industries worldwide … Established in 1939, InfoComm has more than 5,000 members, including manufacturers, systems integrators, dealers and distributors, independent consultants, programmers, rental and staging companies, end-users and multimedia professionals from more than 80 countries."
That’s the official “about” spiel. The reality for me was a much more personal, visceral thing. Starting when I was a teenager, my existence has revolved around photo shoots, video production, live audio and all manner of events involving cameras, lights, mixers and various electronic goodies.
I love this shit.
InfoComm 2013 was my happy place. All half-million square feet of it.
A couple key dominos fell and fueled my passion to attend. First was the invitation from Sony. The company’s products have made up much of the fabric of my life. From my first Walkman (yes, a tape cassette, GOOGLE it!), to my first Discman, all the way to being one of the first adopters of the Sony projection TV – you can say I'm a fan.
Second is the man in black. Who is the man in black? Well, that's Jason Eng (@jasoneng_). The real social force behind Sony Pro USA. After falling into a social media as an extension of my marketing career, I fell into a virtual relationship Jason. He was a like-minded professional desperately trying to harness the power of fledgling networks to preserve and grow market share. I'm pleased to say that not only has social media grown, but my professional and personal relationship with Jason has as well. Mr. Eng understands that a digital social graph only gets you so far. He knows you need to put boots on the ground and engage with your fan base on a face-to-face basis.
Boots & Faces
Advertising agencies and integrated marketing professionals often forget that social media directors not only need to speak the voice of the brand, but they also need to live it in the real world whenever possible. Often I have met the face of social for a brand and been sorely disappointed in their lack of commitment to extend the brand in a face-to-face capacity.
“Hey, Justice! The last time I saw you, you were sporting a T-shirt, cargo shorts and old sneakers!"
Guilty as charged. However, that "look" is the genuine reflection of my personal brand. Of course I will show up in a suit for the right price! But what's the point? Dress the part - be the part. And Mr. Eng was no exception; the man in black was indeed wearing all black.
OK, that also was the uniform of everyone else from Sony. But that's beside the point.
The Big Picture
There's nothing quite like seeing a convention at this level. To say that each booth was fighting for your attention would be the understatement of the year. There was so much digital signage that the vast majority of brands appeared to have lavish graphic design and information printed on the sides of their booths. Then you would see it change before your eyes because the “printing” was actually projected with the latest technologies.
Imagine if the outdoor signs from every casino in Vegas were lined up 20 feet from one another. Only they were transported to Florida. And set up in a big air-conditioned room. That’s what this show was like.
The biggest difference was that at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, I didn’t encounter the slap-slap-slapping of guys trying to shove adult entertainment flyers into my hands. I guess we can't have it all :)
Needless to say, Sony did disappoint. Nor did it destroy my design sensibilities when I approached its GIANT, ultra-clean, white and black booth. Sony did an incredible job formatting the footprint of their tradeshow booth in such a way to show off each and every product. They also provided ample negative space around each product so you could have one-to-one intimacy with it. This display provided a better sense of how you would use the product in your office, theater, and/or home.
The Razors Edge
Now I can bore you to death with my monologue about how great all of Sony's stuff is - and I would not be lying. But frankly these products are on another level. This is like hopping out of a Kia Forte and getting the keys to Porsche 911 Turbo S. There was everything from educational smart-board projectors, to compact live editing switchers, to 4k flat screens that would prompt any guy to trade in his favorite dog if meant he could have one in his man cave for the next Super Bowl.
Remember the first time you saw a high-def screen? Or Blu-ray video on a high-def screen. Think of that x2 - and then blow it out to 65 inches on a wall. One look at it and you will immediately start saving your money.
... And don't even get me started on the 4k Projectors. If it were a horse, I would ride it into battle people.
Last but in no way least, Sony’s new array of 4k laser projectors may have you rethinking what to do with theaters and presentations in the very near future.
If someone told me "the blacks are so rich and the white's are so bright," I would regard them as an arrogant docent telling me about a Rothko painting. But I'm here to tell you that the image quality from a projector unit is not to be believed. And this is coming from a guy who worked 20 Barco units on the backstage of “SeaQuest DSV.” I might as well have been looking at a View-Master. And while the image is different from a flat-screen experience, it's most certainly the future of projected theater entertainment.
Boom! I said it.
Behind Closed Doors
So if I don’t already have the tech geeks and audiophiles salivating, this next part will push you over the top. Jason and I also attended a vendors-only look at the newest up-and-coming technologies for Sony Professional. To be fair, I'm not allowed to talk about the technologies that I saw (Signed an NDA and all. LIKE A BIG BOY! No WikiLeaks here). Which frankly is a total bitch because what Sony is incubating for the future is awesome. It's nice to see that even with the threat of competitors such as Apple, Microsoft and Google, Sony is actively innovating and pushing not only verticals they currently own, but trying to prognosticate where new verticals might emerge.
So are you a fan of a brand? You really should let them know.
If their social team is worth its salt, then you'll hear from them. It's one thing to "LIKE" and another thing entirely to be a brand loyalist. There aren’t many products and supporting brand architectures out there that I would fall in line with. Sony, Apple, Acura, Underarmor, Airstream, and Disney are a few of them.
Take a moment with this list or your own, and ask yourself what makes them great. Design? Quality? Service? Heritage? Yes, yes, yes. But are you creating that for your clients? That's the ultimate litmus test if you are a brand owner.
Who is the Justice Mitchell to your Sony? Who would you reach out to and invite to your trade-show exhibit?
Get to know that person now.
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