CES shows that gender equality is more than just a Hollywood catchphrase

January 12, 2018

CES shows that gender equality is more than just a Hollywood catchphrase

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Many people approach the annual CES expo with eager anticipation, an almost childlike excitement to learn about the latest gadgets or advances in tech. We analyzed almost 1 million mentions across various social networks to get a better sense of the social conversations prompted by CES.

Of the mentions we collected, a vast majority were obviously talking about the release of new products. There was a spike in conversation as the power went out due to heavy rains. But for me, the really intriguing thing that came from our monitor of CES wasn’t the products (even though the robot bartender is seriously rad) or the blackout, but the much smaller conversation, more important conversation around gender equality.

Without a social listening tool that gives you the ability to segment the data and deep dive into smaller segments, stories like this are likely to stay “below the radar” due to the relatively small number of mentions. However, the more I dug into the data, the less important the new TVs seemed to be, and my attention turned instead to researching the use of terms such as #metoo, #timesup, and #cessomale.

While #timesup and #metoo were much more prevalent during the Golden Globes award ceremony, it was encouraging to see so many people speaking up about gender equality in tech.

#timesup at Golden Globes

#timesup usage during Golden Globes

#timesup at #ces

#timesup usage during CES


The Process

When we put together our monitor we weren’t expecting to research gender issues, so we didn’t include those keywords or hashtags in the original search, although I did add #genderavenger and #cessomale a few days later.  

#CES monitor setup

Using the criteria in the image above, we’ve pulled in almost 1 million mentions in the last 7 days (as of this writing). From there, I conducted a secondary search using the various hashtags as search terms and only searching within our pooled mentions.

#cessomale search bar

The great thing about this search feature is that when I enter in a search term, all the visuals change and I get segmented influencer, trending topics and keywords, and sentiment data around that specific search term.

The Result

The beauty of segments and live search is that I can find mentions and look for trends that were outside the original intent of the monitor. In this case, I was looking for a story about a new product but found something more meaningful instead. Without searching specifically for these terms, we found over 2,058 mentions of #metoo, 1,266 uses of #timesup, and 509 mentions containing #cessomale. Since my initial search criteria was focused solely on pulling in specific keywords, I may have missed part of the conversation, but thanks to NUVI’s ability to pull in historical data, I can alter my monitor and then pull up historical data around those new keywords to get the entire conversation. 

One thing I learned by pulling up individual posts tagged with #CES is that many of the attendees were disappointed in the lack of female representation in the selection of keynote speakers. It seems that the hashtag #cessomale stemmed from an all-male panel of keynote speakers. There were many influencers, like Refinery29 whose Twitter account has 1.33m followers, that spoke out against the lack of female representation.

These tweets echo Natalie Portman’s less-than-subtle jab at the Golden Globes for having an all male cohort of nominess for Best Director. Another big marketing miss-step was the booth portraying the “stripper robots.” We found these tweets (and many, many more) through our monitor. In this era where more and more people are speaking out against sexual assault *Coughweinsteincough* and gender equality, it was a move that obviously upset many attendees. 

Stripper Robot


Actionable Insights

Sometimes the most valuable information isn’t what you are looking for. In this case, I went into the monitor looking for traditional marketing information such as sentiment and influencers talking about a specific product. But instead of ignoring these hashtags, I was curious and found something I wasn’t expecting. That information tells a different story than what most people are looking at when talking about this event. Social listening can be extremely useful in competitive research, tracking and engaging influencers, and product development, but going forward I predict many companies will be using to avoid potential PR crises by paying attention to the current political conversations and making sure that both messaging and imagery are respectful and appropriately diverse.

In this case, if I were doing marketing for CES, or my company was thinking of having a booth at CES 2019, this monitor and the information it provided would be invaluable at avoiding unnecessary criticism and avoiding a crisis.

I would use social listening to look for topics that might not be as immediately noticeable, but which could have a dramatic effect on my audience and on my business. In the case of CES, the vast majority of mentions are not political in nature, but the ones that were will have huge, ongoing impact for future conferences. And the media will take note as well. For example, check out this extremely timely article we found by Forbes addressing the representation of women at CES and the power of social media to bring awareness to a cause:

About a month ago, GenderAvenger, a group that works to ensure that women are “represented in the public dialog,” noticed the lack of women keynote speakers at this year’s CES—the annual Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas—and put forth an action alert calling for CES to right that wrong.

Marketing executives such as Brad Jakeman, former president of PepsiCo’s global beverage group, saw the action alert and shared it with industry colleagues via social media, soon piquing the attention of other influential marketing executives including Antonio Lucio, chief marketing and communications officer at HP Inc., Kristin Lemkau, CMO of JPMorgan Chase (a past CES keynote speaker), and Steven Wolfe Pereira, CMO of Quantcast. What fueled the fire was CES’ initial response that there was a “limited pool” of women in CEO-level positions at large companies with “name recognition” to pull from. “When we heard that reaction, that’s what really ticked people off,” Wolfe Pereira said. “And that took social chatter to the next level and we started to have the conversation about, ‘Hey, how can we really find the solve?’” Seemingly overnight, a core group of marketing leaders were demanding change and offering up suggestions of rockstar women leaders who could take on keynote roles.

Lucio, who initially tweeted that men should boycott CES because of the lack of women keynote speakers, now is heavily involved in on-site efforts. “I joined the voices of other CMOs in the call to action for more diverse speakers and met with CES management, offering my help in driving change for next year,” he told me in an email. “For example, expanding mainstage keynotes to women and diverse leaders of influence who may not be presidents or CEOs should be considered. At CES this week, I am supporting additional programming featuring women leaders as speakers, including the ANA’s #SeeHer panel on gender equality, ‘Innovation from a Different Lens,’  and Leslie Berland’s #HereWeAre event,” he said.

Alienating a significant portion of your key audience is a sure-fire way to find yourself in a crisis management situation. Social listening, when done right, will not only help with traditional marketing efforts but can also be the difference between securing your position as a relevant and culturally aware organization or one that is completely tone-deaf and scrambling to make amends for an avoidable situation.

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