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CES 2017News & Views

At CES, Brands are Boasting

Authenticity matters. Or does it?

In 2016, we learned that when you say things with confidence and are able to effortlessly swat away criticism, some people will praise you for “telling it like it is”. Whether you’re saying something that’s actually true or just something you believe to be true—facts or rebuttals be damned—saying it as though you’re an all-knowing expert can sometimes be enough to get people to buy in.

This is obviously in reference to a certain newly-minted Leader of the Free World. Political candidates are both brand and marketer, and so those in the commerce world were certainly watching, taking notes on the apparent value of hype, brashness, and self-belief. As we approach CES 2017, there are signs that some brands and marketers may be taking a similar approach to try and win over the people.

Take two examples of new products being unveiled this week in Las Vegas. Kolibree’s Ara smart toothbrush is billing itself as “The 1st Toothbrush with Artificial Intelligence”. The Ara isn’t a dud of a product; it’s actually quite impressive. Sensors within the brush itself monitor the use, and it’s built with an algorithm that learns brushing patterns and offers weekly recommendations on how the user can improve their brushing. The Ara’s AI claim isn’t a total fabrication, but can plausibly be considered as a stretching of the truth. The brush itself cannot solve the problem of lackadaisical brushing—it won’t guide the user’s hands to reach the oft-ignored areas and can’t force the user to brush more often or for longer—but it at least diagnoses it.

LG goes a bit stronger. Their new SJ9 sound bar speaker is being billed as being equipped with “4K sound”. That’s interesting, The Verge points out, because 4K sound doesn’t really exist. LG has sort of just decided that 4K sound is a real thing, justifying the claim in a footnote in a press release that reads: Over 4,000kbps (24bit x 96kHz x2ch) hi-resolution audio data, full processing

On a television, 4K refers to the number of horizontal pixels on the screen. There is no industry-agreed-upon definition of 4K audio. So, sure? I guess? Is LG wrong, or just making up a completely new thing out of thin air?

Does it even matter? What might matter most is that LG says it has a 4K speaker, and that consumers will hear that LG has a 4K speaker. And if they want the best sound possible, they’ll buy an LG product  because it has “4K sound”, regardless of that claim’s merit.

Can we blame LG? It’s a cutthroat world. Brands and marketers need to break through the noise to reach consumers. We want to think that authenticity is the key. Maybe that’s still true. But in our current world, braggadocio could turn out to be another option.

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