Consumer Electronics Association Disrupts Itself

The Consumer Electronics Association announced on Tuesday that it would change its name to the Consumer Technology Association. CEO Gary Shapiro says the move was made to get beyond the limits of "electronics," and it comes with a new lobbying strategy.

One of the world’s most prominent trade associations is trying a new name on for size.

The Consumer Electronics Association, most famous for its annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), announced Tuesday that it would rebrand as the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), a change intended to better emphasize the wide breadth of its membership base.

“[O]ne common concern is that the name Consumer Electronics Association no longer fits,” CEO Gary Shapiro wrote in a Medium post on Tuesday. “The word ‘electronics’ is limiting and does not capture all the innovation swirling around wireless, the Internet, automobiles, health and the new economy. The word ‘technology’ better defines what we have become and who we represent.”

In his comments, Shapiro noted that the group covers not only an extremely wide segment of the consumer sector but also a massive chunk of the technology world—something reflected by the fact that the CES is frequently near the top of largest tradeshow lists. The group counts fields as diverse as 3D printing, mobile app development, robots, drones, and sharing-economy startups among its member base.

Just Another Name Change

In an interview with Dealerscope, Shapiro noted that the name change is far from the first for the trade group, which has gone through many iterations as the consumer electronics space has evolved.

“Our association has a long history of changing our name to reflect the rapidly changing industry we represent,” Shapiro explained. “We began as the Radio Manufacturers Association in 1924—and just think about how that sector has evolved in the last nine decades! In audio alone, we’ve moved from radios and record players to high-resolution audio and anytime/anywhere streaming content.”

Shapiro’s predecessor, Jack Wayman, started at what was then called the Electronic Industries Association (EIA), helping to build its now-dominant tradeshow business. The group effectively became the CEA in 1999, after the EIA spun off its consumer electronics subsidiary and wound down.

Supporting the Disruptors

The association, beyond shifting its outward appearance slightly, is also making some changes under the hood. Politico reports that the group also has a new lobbying effort in the works, called the Disruptive Innovation Council, which will represent companies that are challenging the status quo—think Pandora, Uber, and Lyft. It’s something of a shift from the tradeshow-heavy focus for which the association is known.

“But the group’s new effort focused on ‘disruptors’ reflects its desire to play a bigger role in some of the most crucial tech policy debates like the on-demand economy, especially as such issues arise in the 2016 presidential election,” the news outlet reports.

A scene from the 2015 edition of the Consumer Electronics Show. (Nvidia/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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