At the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show on Wednesday, Jan. 4th 2017 in Las Vegas, Hisense unveiled its newly redesigned Smart TV platform. (Jeff Bottari/AP Images for Hisense)

Published: January 11th, 2017

Chances are you haven’t heard of Hisense Co., but are familiar with at least one of its products.

The Qingdao, China-based electronics manufacturer, originally founded in 1969, has owned the North and South American rights to the Sharp brand since 2015, but more importantly serves as an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of appliances, televisions, and technology including a 98-inch “ULED” smart TV; mobile nursing and computer assisted surgical systems; a short-range projector-based television; traffic control systems; optical switching devices that help power the Internet; and even a cloud-based smart dehumifier and smart air conditioner that use sensors to read the surrounding temperature and respond accordingly.

Those products are sold in 130 countries, and Hisense’s worldwide network of offices and manufacturing facilities includes R&D centres in Toronto; Atlanta, Ga.; and San Jose, Calif.

Hisense CMO Mark Viken says that tailoring his company’s story to both of its primary audiences was key to its CES marketing strategy.

“We say on our website that we’re the biggest technology company you’ve never heard of,” Mark Viken, the company’s vice-president of marketing, says with a chuckle. “But we’re working hard to change that.”

That type of candour was key to Hisense’s marketing strategy at last week’s CES in Las Vegas, where the company packed a standing-room-only crowd into its 10,000-square-foot booth for a Jan. 4 press conference showcasing its latest products and technology, including the aforementioned 98-inch ULED (Ultra LED) television, which Hisense claims is up to three times brighter than a comparable OLED model, and the short-range projector-based 4K Laser Cast TV.

Each product was backed by what Viken referred to as its “story” – both of its own development and of the company behind its creation. Hisense’s ULED technology, for example, is trademarked and supported by 20 patents, while its medical solutions leverage the company’s 47 years of experience in display equipment research and development and were showcased for the first time at CES.

“That’s how we separate ourselves,” Viken says. “By letting people know how we’re ahead, where our technologies are headed, and by launching these products that we’re displaying.”

A fixed approach

Like the products and technology being showcased, Hisense’s CES marketing plans were themselves devised many months in advance, Viken explains, anticipating both the competition on display and audience demand. Nothing changed on the show floor.

“You can’t just walk on the floor and change your strategy,” he says, noting that in his opinion the show is no different from any other consumer-facing platform – except in its unparalleled ability to reach Hisense’s two most important audiences: Consumers and retail partners.

“These types of technology investments are long-term commitments,” Viken says. “And the best way to reach our consumers is through the tens of thousands of international and local press that attend CES.”

“Laying out the technologies that Hisense is getting behind for display products, and our intelligent products for the future, for the press, who then write the stories that get out to hundreds of millions of consumers, was our number-one priority,” he continues.

Naturally enough, the company’s number two priority was bringing clients and retail partners into its booth and telling them Hisense’s story as well, whether that meant discussing the company’s products, demonstrating them live, or discussing how they could collaborate on bringing the products to life for consumers over the next year – a goal that Viken realizes Hisense’s many competitors were pursuing at CES too.

“There’s a lot of buzz about television technology,” he admits. “Some companies are talking about OLED, others are talking about the improvements happening in 4K, with LCD technology and LED-based technologies… so we told our story of where we think these technologies are headed.”

That strategy, which Viken believes paid off on the CES show floor, is the exact same one the company plans to pursue throughout the year.

“There are a lot of big competitors, including some major corporations, but we’re breaking through the noise with our story,” he says. “I think we’re in the hundreds of millions of impressions so far, and we’ve backed that up with a social campaign – for example, a Facebook page where people could watch our press conference – so it keeps building. We’re pushing our message out, and it’s working.”

“We’ll keep using the same approach with the stories we’re telling here, and the products we’re showing, to bring our technology to life,” he continues. “Our marketing strategy was never a short-term thing. It was about laying out a long-term strategy that brings our newest products and technology to life.”

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