I’m going to go out on a limb with my take on CES 2015. It will likely make you cringe. And, many of you will roll your eyes and say “what the heck is she talking about?” Fair enough. But hang with me, please, I’m going somewhere. Here it is:

New technology was not the most impressive thing I saw at CES 2015.

Intel, your magic button is likely the future of wearables (of which there were a TON at CES) but not the best part. Bang & Olufsen, a beautiful wood-clad music system that matches music to my mood would be the perfect addition to my home (if I could afford it), but I’m not talking about you either. Mercedes unveiled a concept car that drives itself (and not just out of the garage), runs on hydrogen, and features wood flooring and touch screens that respond to gestures. I’m not impressed. Ok, I’m a little impressed. But Luxury in Motion was not what knocked my socks off.

While CES was packed with thousands of companies introducing technology that will change the way we live our day-to-day lives forever, I walked away from the conference with one realization: it was not so much a tech conference as a storytelling experience. It was the out of this world, phenomenal, conceptual storytelling that impressed me the most – especially among those companies who were introducing technology light years beyond our consumer comfort zone.

Storytelling is an essential tool for every marketer – from the startup companies who were at Eureka Park to the heavy hitters like Intel and Mercedes. CES was a reminder that you can develop some of the most incredible products in the world but unless you find a way to stand out among your competitors and relate to your audience, you’re just another tech company at the largest convention on the planet.

Here are a few examples of fantastic storytelling that I encountered at CES:

Consumers using gadgets to tell their own stories

UGC is not a new concept. Spend five minutes on YouTube and you’ll encounter thousands of people who have shared their singing/dancing/rapping/acting/pranking skills with the world. What was interesting at CES were the companies who were introducing new ways for consumers to do what they were already doing on their own: storytelling.

If you attended any of Shelly Palmer’s events, you probably noticed him wearing a bright orange square gadget pinned to his lapel. He explained that the device was called Narrative and that it took a photo every thirty seconds, which was then automatically uploaded and stored in the cloud. Shelly was drawn to the storytelling power of the device; “I’m a storyteller. I love telling stories. I thought about going to my granddaughter’s birthday party [wearing Narrative] and thought ‘What an interesting way to tell a story.’” But he was also drawn to the company’s story. “Narrative had a big idea, crowdsourced, and then came to CES to tell their brand story. There’s no barrier to entry at CES. A guy can come up with an idea like Narrative, raise some money and make it happen.”

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Shelly Palmer wearing Narrative with Tamara McCleary at CES 2015

Brands using customers to help tell their stories

In a word, duh. Why didn’t we think of this sooner? It makes complete sense to source UGC from the very people who are actually using the products. MOFILM is paving the way for up and coming filmmakers to create content for big brands and social causes. At CES, we saw ads for some big brands created by very young, very talented filmmakers from all over the world – my favorite of which was for Guinness. The biggest market for Guinness is not Ireland (shocking, I know). It’s actually Africa. So they worked with MOFILM to find a South African filmmaker who created a beautiful, goosebump-inducing ad. MOFILM, I think you’re onto something here.

Good old-fashioned creative

Home automation was a big theme at CES this year. Everything from security systems to light bulbs are getting smarter in 2015. They can tell when you’re not home (turning off electronics and light bulbs in response), adjust automatically to temperature and lighting changes and even give you the power to control your home security and electronics from afar. The stand out among the home automation players at CES 2015 was Belkin’s WEMO, which is a home automation technology that allows users to control everything from their sprinkler system to their coffee maker from their smart devices. Rather than touting the brilliance of their innovative technology, Belkin’s marketing has focused on the emotional impact that WEMO has on its’ users. Their approach has humanized the products – taking them from “just another gadget” to a tool that families can use to give themselves peace of mind in a fast-paced world. Can I WEMO that?

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