CK Insights: Why Partnerships are the Next Big Trend for Smart Homes (and PR)
By Katy Hendricks
The following was first published on the CooperKatz Thought Bubble blog.
In the days following CES, the flight from McCarren Airport to JFK is a sight to be seen. Half of the passengers have their eyes shut, hoodies pulled over their heads, earphones on, desperately trying to catch up on sleep from long days, longer nights and Las Vegas sensory overload. The other half are still on a technology high, obsessively scrolling through CES reviews they didn’t have time to read after 10-plus hours a day of standing and walking the show floor.
I was caught in a vortex between the two, trying to get some shut eye but unable to stop my mind from replaying the week — which was equally split between Sands, the Las Vegas Convention Center and, yes, even a few casinos. However, my high is not just about the products that debuted. It’s equally a reflection of the spirit of collaboration I witnessed in booths and breakfast meetings — even among competitors — all for the greater good of innovation.
Why We Were There
CooperKatz was at CES on behalf of our long-time client Coldwell Banker Real Estate, who made headlines this year for being the first national real estate company to join the Consumer Technology Association and sponsor the Smart Home Marketplace (read more about it at ces.coldwellbanker.com). Our role was to support the content team’s impressive line-up of on-site interviews while organizing partnership meetings, a major part of the Coldwell Banker 2016 marketing and PR strategy.
What caught my attention — and has held it in the hours following CES — is how enthusiastically we were greeted in each conversation. This is especially true when the other party came to the realization that partnerships can be wildly successful, sometimes without money ever changing hands.
Why Partnerships Solve Problems
For the smart home industry, integration isn’t just a “nice to have.” It’s a must. Each piece of the connected home must communicate, or else the consumer is left with a headache and a home that feels anything but smart. The most forward-thinking brands are recognizing this and adapting accordingly. Nest — the pioneer of the smart thermostat — now has more than 50 brands in its “Works with Nest” network. Vivint Smart Home, a connected home system for the “Do It for Me” consumer, just announced a partnership with the golden child of CES 2016, Amazon Echo.
From a marketing and PR perspective, we’re sharing resources — both literally and figuratively. In PR, we often have to be conservative with our budgets. Among all the marketing disciplines, we’ve historically had to do the most with the least. Partnerships can help solve this problem by allowing us to find a common ground, share audiences and extend our reach among like-minded companies that consumers trust. These kinds of partnerships can become far more than “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine,” moving into a space where brainstorming and collaboration are energizing and immensely productive.
What This Means for 2016
Brands have been partnering for years because in many ways, it’s a no-brainer. It’s why I could stream Amazon Prime on my Jet Blue screen Sunday afternoon, and why Coldwell Banker and CNET recently announced a partnership to bring smart home technology to the real estate industry.
But in 2016, we’re going to see more creative approaches to partnerships as we continue to break down the rules of engagement. Yes, we can and will continue to build those high-level strategic alliances that take months to organize and millions of dollars to execute. These types of contractual relationships often have the greatest ROI and create powerful campaigns. But we can (and should) also partner in smaller ways — stepping outside of our comfort zone and beyond the boundaries that some feel define traditional PR.
As all visionaries know, innovation is made possible when you have the smartest people on your team and you give them running-room to try new things. And in the world of brand partnerships, this same rule applies. Only when we collaborate will we bring out the best in each other and change the industry — whether it’s our own or those of our partners and clients.