CES is the world’s largest technology show, held each year in Las Vegas. In its 50+ years, this show has become the spot for companies to show case the latest advancements – and enhancements – on the tech scene. Everything from computers, to cars, to drones, now into health and wellness, security, and data – CES showcases more than 4,500 exhibitors with more than 170,000 attendees from 160 countries.
CES isn’t the first type of event one might think of when it comes to green tractors. But in 2019, John Deere attended its first show, with plans to return again in 2020.
Laurel Caes, public relations at John Deere, joins host Tony Kramer to discuss why John Deere believes that CES is valuable in presenting the widely-known agriculture company as a technology company – and what’s in store for John Deere at CES 2020?
Check out past episodes and guests – visit the Episode Archive.
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Catch this episode’s complete transcript here:
Tony: Welcome back to another episode of the podcast. This is episode number 108 and today we're going to be talking about John Deere and the Consumer Electronics Show.
I'm very excited to welcome Laurel Caes who is the public relations manager for North American Ag with John Deere company. Thanks for joining us on the show today, Laurel. To get started, let's hear a little bit more about you and your background and how you got involved in the industry?
Laurel: Yes, absolutely. Thank you for asking us to be a part of your podcast. Really excited to share what we're doing at the Consumer Electronics Show. A little bit about me as you mentioned, I am the public relations manager for ag, North American agriculture and I sit in the Kansas City Office with Deere. I have been with Deere for about eight years and have held various roles starting at John Deere financial, several roles here in ag and sales marketing organization, including working with our dealers out of Houston, Texas, which for an Iowa farm kid was really interesting to see some of the different ag practices in Texas.
Now I'm in the Communications Group and we're working on elevating Deere's perception within the ag market here in the US and in Canada.
Tony: Yes. I hear you there when you talk about being an Iowa farm kid and seeing what's going on down in Texas. I get a very unique opportunity to see similar things within the RDO organization. There's a lot more than just corn, soybeans and wheat out there in the ag industry.
Laurel: [laughs] That's for sure. The closest thing to snow I saw in Texas was corn.
Tony: Hey, it's white and fluffy. It fits. It's very similar. All right, Laurel. Really need to hear about everyone's background and how they got to where they are and your position within John Deere now, public relations and portraying that message of John Deere is very cool. It's really what brings us to talk about the show today. What we're going to talk about John Deere being at the Consumer Electronics Show. Before we dive into that, let's just hear a little bit about what is the Consumer Electronics Show? Can you share a little background on that?
Laurel: Yes. Absolutely. The Consumer Electronics Show is definitely not your typical ag show, that's for sure. It is the world's largest technology show and it's been around for just over 50 years. It's held the first week of January in Las Vegas. There are I think about 4500 exhibiting companies at this show. It takes over every convention center and expo space in the city. It's huge. I had the opportunity to go last year. I don't even think I saw more than maybe 20% of the show. It's a very, very large show. They get about 175,000 attendees that come through the show from all over the globe.
I think they've mentioned that there's over 160 countries that have a presence at the show either in exhibitors or attendees. The categories of technologies that are at the show, there's a fitness area, drones, artificial intelligence, robots, gaming, entertainment, consumers, there is just all over the board a lot of innovations that are being displayed. For reference in my research on CES and its backstory and history, I learned that in 1970, the VCR was debuted at the CES. This is the kind of thing that they're doing. They're showcasing new technologies. Some of it make it to market, some don't. It is just a massive show that shows innovation and tech throughout our lives in different areas and how it's changing different areas of business globally.
Tony: It's really cool that you bring up that little bit of information on the VCR because you think about the amount of technology that we use today and all the gadgets that are out there, and you talk about the VCR back in 1970. It just goes to show what that Consumer Electronic Show is all about and what they're showing, which brings us to the next point of John Deere. In 2019, John Deere attended the CES or Consumer Electronics Show. I really want to dive into that Laurel and learn more about why did John Deere do that? What was the goal of John Deere attending this show? Tell us a little bit about John Deere being at CES in 2019?
Laurel: Definitely. Like I mentioned CES is not your typical farm show. I think we were all blown away by the engagement we had from attendees last year with last year being the first year that John Deere exhibited in a booth at CES. We do this and we explored the opportunity and we went for our first year last year, and really for several reasons. Number one, we are at CES to identify opportunities, to bring new technology to agriculture to improve farm productivity, profitability, and sustainability. CES has a wealth of information, great minds there, innovative ideas. It's really there for us to engage and explore opportunities for our customers to stay connected to those tech advancements so that we can bring the best solutions to their farm.
Number two, and probably, I would say maybe the most fun reasons here at CES that we would all say for those of us who attended last year, is to explain to the tech industry how important agriculture is and how significant the tech advancements on the farm are. These people that attend CES are some of the most brilliant minds and they are very, very intelligent. They just aren't connected to agriculture like you and I are. To be able to tell them how advanced technology is in agriculture, was fascinating. They were a very engaged audience and it was really a chance for us to advocate on behalf of dealers, customers, farmers everywhere so that people could understand where their food comes from. They were great conversations to have and it really helped attendees understand agriculture at a different level.
Third, I would say we were also there from a recruitment aspect at the show. Certainly, John Deere is always exploring, getting some of the best talent to help support what we do as a company. I would say from your seat in the house as a dealer organization, this recruitment of top tech talent as some of our equipment becomes so technologically advanced is definitely something that you all are looking at as well. When we think about technology in ag, it's really that tech with a purpose. You're serving a greater purpose of feeding and clothing and sheltering the world with what we do in agriculture. There is a bit of a recruitment play there too to let people know what we are doing and what types of advancements there are in agriculture.
Tony: That is awesome to hear that John Deere is utilizing the Consumer Electronics Show for all of those different reasons. One of the things, as you were talking there that I always think about, is the number of people that don't understand how much technology is in agriculture. I always like to tell people that Tesla came out with the self-driving car and I mention John Deere in agriculture in a whole, we've had self-driving equipment for a long time thinking back to when auto-track was released. It's really cool for John Deere to be able to share that story in a different industry.
Not necessarily different industry, but from a different perspective at the Consumer Electronics Show. It's just really awesome to hear the three goals that you guys had in mind when attending that show. After learning a little bit about why John Deere was there, tell us a little bit about what the 2019 show looked like. What did John Deere have at the show to portray the message of technology in agriculture?
Laurel: I think it was between us and a company that brought a yacht between who had the biggest display at CES. We took an S700 Combine last year to the show. Similar to what you were just saying about the self-driving technology, we also took a tractor to demonstrate some of those self-driving technologies and precision in the self-driving area of a parking lot in Vegas. We had two machines there to demonstrate not just that self-driving, but also all technology sensors, robotics, computer vision, machine learning that are available inside the equipment today.
As you mentioned, and I think this is pretty key and was an important realization of a lot of attendees there, we talked very much about what we have in market, and what is a commercialized solution available to our customers today. There are a lot of things at CES that are very forward-thinking. They could be someday, but they aren't necessarily available to the public today. People were blown away by some of the technological advancements in our equipment that are available not just today, but have been available for years. That was really, really neat to see and engage with folks on those conversations. We demonstrated all sorts of technology on the combine that we had there.
We also had several different displays within the booth to talk through robotic sensors and connectivity, different technologies that are available within agriculture, not just on the combine, but within the whole ag ecosystem that farmers are using today. Speaking in that tech language, really helped and resonated with the tech audience that was at the show, many of them didn't know that we had a combine in the booth. They knew we had a big green piece of equipment and some of them asked, "What kind of tractor is that? Is that a futuristic machine? Do you make more than two of those a year?"
Really isn't their background and they wouldn't understand the difference between a combine and a tractor. What they do understand is the technology that's embedded within both of those machines to make farming more efficient for the customer.
Tony: Those comments that you made right there really does put it into perspective on the level of knowledge when it comes to agriculture versus more of an urban setting. It's again, awesome that John Deere is taking this opportunity with the CES show. Now, I'm going to put you on the spot right here, Laurel. What was one of your favorite things about the 2019 show?
Laurel: I was only there for two days. I wasn't even there for the full show. I would say, I walked away with a better sense of purpose for what I do in agriculture, what I do for John Deere. It made me so proud to work for a company that is helping shape the world and for the future that we're driving towards. It was just so impactful. It is an experience that I've had with Deere that has changed my perspective in the way that I do things every day.
Tony: That is awesome to hear. Putting 2019 behind us now, we have the Consumer Electronics Show 2020 coming up next week, January 7 through the 10th. Is John Deere going to be there and what can you share with us about the show next week.
Laurel: Yes, putting 2019 behind us, '20 is right in front of us. We will be there at the show again in '20. We are so excited to bring these technologies and conversations back to this tech audience. We are developing a booth and talking points and areas to have these conversations at the show in 2020. One thing we've done this year is we brought a lot more farm to the show. Last year we kept it very tech to have those conversations and engage with that tech audience about the technology advancements in agriculture. This year, we're bringing more farm. We've got a little bit more agriculture built-in and we're also doing that with some of the conversations we're having by bringing both a customer and a dealer to the show.
Having that customer there will really be able to better advocate on behalf of not just what Deere's doing, but how are customers using some of these technologies in their daily operation, and how it's benefiting them in the field. We're doing that which will be different. We're also doing what we're calling a tireside chat, where we're having experts from Deere, as well as the farm to have some live conversations in the booth about the impact of technology and agriculture. That's a very common thing at CES, so we're engaging in some of those conversations that'll be live at the booth.
Then, of course, we've got all those folks, people that will be attending to talk through things like user experience with our new cab, as well as spatial intelligence. We've got some self-driving demos. Just a lot of things. A lot of areas to engage in conversations with the folks that are attending the show. The other announcement that we have earlier this year, I guess last year was our John Deere 8RX tractor, our new tractor won in innovation award was an honoree for the Innovation Award for the Tech For A Better World. We'll have a display at the booth highlighting 8RX, its larger purpose in technology and in agriculture there at the booth.
Tony: There are so many reasons right there to be excited about the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show. If you have the opportunity to get there, if you already planned on going, like I said next week, January 7 through the 10th, all of this awesome that John Deere is going to be sharing from technology to equipment and so on and so forth. Now thinking back Laurel, whether it be the 2019 show or looking forward to next week's 2020 show, what is one success story that you can share with us that John Deere has received from being a part of the Consumer Electronics Show?
Laurel: I think the biggest success story we can take away from this is advocating on behalf of agriculture to this audience. This is an audience of brilliant minds, very, very intelligent folks. These are just people that don't understand agriculture and maybe don't understand where their food comes from. Helping to explain agriculture to them. They're a very engaged audience. Those conversations are so important as the year progresses, as the dealers progress, as farmers progress in their operations. Being able to do that on behalf of agriculture as a whole was a win-win for us last year and we're so excited to do it again this year.
Tony: Where can people go? Who can they talk to if they want to learn more about whether it be the John Deere technology in iron or even the CES Show, where can people find that information?
Laurel: CES information is available on the internet. Google the show and learn a little bit more about its purpose. As far as John Deere's involvement at CES in 2020, we are doing so much more to bring the show and bring that information back live to an audience on our social channels. I would encourage anybody to follow along on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for John Deere, to follow along with some of those live interactions at the show. We're planning several conversations on those social channels, as well as photos and articles, snippets of things happening live at the show so that everybody can stay engaged and we continue the excitement for what we're doing in 2020.
Tony: That is awesome to hear. Like she said, go out follow John Deere on all the social channels. I know I followed along last year, it was very exciting to feel the excitement of that show and learn about what was being introduced and talked about there. Follow the John Deere social media channels and follow along with the CES 2020 show. Laurel, I just want to thank you very much for taking the time out of your day to sit down, chat with me a little bit about John Deere and the Consumer Electronics Show. This is a podcast episode I've been looking forward to do for a long time ever since the show last year when everyone was just like, "John Deere at the CES, what is going on?"
Tony: For you to fill us in a little bit about why you were there, the goals, the initiatives, and then now what to look forward to here at next week's show at the CES 2020. Thanks again for doing this, Laurel.
Laurel: Absolutely, my pleasure. Certainly, we don't have to wait another year. We should definitely catch up after 2020 and talk through how the show went this year.
Tony: That sounds like a plan to me.