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The Coolest Thing At CES You Didn’t See

Last week I walked International CES for three straight days. During that time I ended up taking 68,738 steps — that’s about 30 miles through cavernous halls, killing my iPhone if not for my trusty cellphone battery charger by Xsorii 😉 .

I saw a lot of really cool stuff, from robots and drones and next-level TVs to handheld 3D gaming devices that don’t require glasses. One blog couldn’t even begin to cover it all, but I can tell you about the coolest thing I saw at CES and it wasn’t a product. It was a trade show booth. 

Do I have your attention now? Thought so.

See, when I go to CES (this being my 15th time), I’m a hunter for the really new stuff in design and marketing: What has new product packaging, or a new identity or a slogan? But trade show booths are designed for industry events, and even if someone has a good one the public will never see it, so why would I care? Or so my thinking went. I have to admit that I was wrong, and the company that changed my mind was battery phone case maker Mophie

What made its booth so amazing is not what you see on the outside, because the outside is just a gigantic black box with their logo in white slapped on the side — polarizing in a North Hall full of exhibitors doing the complete opposite. It was true to their brand’s design language of simple, which carries from their point-of-purchase to their packaging to their website and yes, to their trade show booth: black with just a white logo.

So when I approached this enormous box at the only entrance I could find, there was a Mophie representative standing behind a podium, guarding a black door. I asked this person if I could speak to someone about Mophie’s brand philosophy, to ask simple stuff like what the name Mophie stands for (an answer I never got by the way). After a few minutes of chitchat, this PR rep said, “Maybe I should just show you.”

This is when I was led past the ominous black door and though a series of curtains into what can only be described as a 1920s speakeasy. Low lights, plush chairs (which were music to my aching feet) and a fully stocked bar with a chipper bartender to boot. The room was amazingly quiet, which was incredible because on the other side of its four walls was all-out trade show chaos. I couldn’t hear any people or loud booming music. It was like I was transported off the trade show floor and though time to a completely new place that was very exclusive.

I took a seat, someone came and took my drink order, and I just sat back and relaxed. It sounds simple and maybe a little unimpressive if you’ve never been to CES, but for those of you who know what I’m talking about, it was brilliant. The madness of the show stopped in this space and visitors slowed down. I can only imagine that that’s exactly what Mophie was trying to accomplish with this design.

When the waitress brought me my drink, she put down a cocktail napkin that had the Mophie logo foil-stamped into it. The logo picked up the faint light that was still existent in the room, and for a moment I remembered that outside were 170,000 people running around like mad. I tried to remember them while I enjoyed the solitude.

Jamie Capozzi is the founder and creative director of Theory Associates, a strategic branding agency that creates crave for some of the world’s leading technology brands.  He can be reached at (415) 904-0995.