From Jan. 8 to Jan. 11, over 4,500 companies and 180,000 people will descend on Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show, the annual trade show for consumer and technology innovations and products.
Among the thousands of attending companies, which touch everything from transportation to gaming, will be beauty-centric brands like Clarisonic and its parent company L’Oréal Group, and Olay and its parent Procter & Gamble. They’ll join a roster of companies like Dyson and electronics conglomerate New Kinpo Group (which is behind HiMirror) that are involved in the beauty industry but have a more electronic or engineering bent.
As beauty and technology have become increasingly intertwined over the past several years, more beauty brands are gravitating toward CES. For companies like L’Oréal, it is an opportunity to show off their latest technological innovations and meet with leaders and startups for future collaborations. L’Oréal has been attending CES as an exhibitor since it created its technology incubator in 2012, as a way to understand how its company innovations would be accepted in a wider cultural context. Over the years, CES has become an important media opportunity for the company, as well: It announced at the trade show the launches of My Skin Track UV, which tracks skin’s exposure to sun damage, in 2018 and a connected smart hairbrush called the Kérastase Hair Coach in 2017.
“We absolutely have to be at CES because it helps us see all the industry trends, and the value and return on investment of technologies that have been around for years, like AI,” said Guive Balooch, global vp of L’Oréal Technology Incubator at L’Oréal USA. The incubator collaborates across multiple science and technology fields — it worked with Northwestern University’s school of engineering for My Skin Track UV, for example — and CES is a place to find new collaborators and technology that can be applied to products.
Meanwhile, Clarisonic, which is attending CES for the first time in 2019, will be showcasing an unpublished scientific study with the goal of positioning the brand as science-backed and high-tech driven brand, compared to previous years. “It used to be that we were a tech device that helped with skin, but not a ‘real’ tech device,” said Kathy Chi-Thurber, general manager of Clarisonic Global and U.S. The aim is to be recognized by tech and science publications for being a beauty brand that merges skin research, hardware and software technologies, as well as consumer insights, into one device, said Chi-Thurber.
Meeting with the tech media outlets is the primary goal of Olay. Olay has used high-level technologies like artificial intelligence in its Olay’s Skin Advisor (launched in 2016), and P&G wants more recognition for its efforts. This year, Olay is revealing three enhancements to its Skin Advisor for the U.S. market. Furthermore, it will show off the latest by Olay Labs: daily, personalized products based on skin-care needs and the Olay FaceNavi Smart Wand device, which personalizes and optimizes skin-care products through the Olay Skin Advisor mobile app.
Although CES is open to the public, interacting and educating them is not a draw for Olay, said Dr. Frauke Neuser, principal scientist at Olay.
“I’m not totally interested in the visitors, because they probably aren’t Olay consumers; they are men in sneakers and suits,” she said, adding that the millennial customers the brand is pursuing have grown up with consuming tech coverage but have not seen Olay mentioned in the space as much. “[Tech journalism] has become mainstream, so we want to make sure we connect with her where she is.”
In addition to reaching out directly to tech outlets, P&G is hosting TED-style talks and a panel on Tuesday, Jan. 8 at its exhibitor booth. The talks, which run all day, will focus on Olay’s technology efforts, use of AI and the science of skin imagining. Although Olay has attended other trade shows and conferences like the Mobile World Congress and AI Expo in the past, Neuser said there is not anything quite like CES which combines public consumerism with high-tech and scientific research.
“CES reflects the reality that beauty brands have moved into the consumer electronics space. There’s AI and sensors, and connected devices in beauty everywhere,” she said. “So it’s logical that brands are showing up here.”