It is Apple Watch Day, and the airwaves and Web browsers will brim with snap judgments, predictions of Apple stock impact and listicle after listicle about the five, seven, 10 or 15 things you need to know about Apple Watch.
But is Apple really going to reinvent the wearable category in the way it did phones and prime-time computing (iPad)?
Interestingly, a preliminary survey of “wearable consumers” (who own or plan to buy such a device) found that four out of five don’t expect to get an Apple watch. This survey by MDC Partners’ Accent Marketing was done online with 1,000 consumers.
To be sure, a majority of wearable consumers (54%) admit that the Apple Watch is “an exciting use of technology.” But why the suppressed enthusiasm for Apple’s rollout, even among those interested in the category? A bare majority say that the device’s watch interface will be too small to use effectively.
Of course there is also the fact that many wearable users already have a device hugging their wrists and likely are satisfied with its focused functionality. The survey found that 64% of the wearable consumers group use their devices daily. This sounds as if there's a fair amount of penetration of devices already in the self-declared category, and these consumers are devoted to a particular device.
While 38% of them say they are excited most about smartwatches, that is still not a clear majority. Still, two out of three want access to their key social networks. That may be why 75% of Millennials seemed to agree that wearables are a good way for brands to engage customers.
But the wearable category comes with a number of clear caveats. I read into these numbers some sign that the category will be extremely fragmented. As the devices get more intimate, I wonder if consumers will be happy with the large multifunction solution of a smartwatch. Apple has yet to make its case for why we really need this new gadget. Maybe the company will today, and I hope it is more than just having an extension of the more functional device you already pack in your pocket.
And I suspect many wearable users will be looking for a narrow set of functions to justify keeping a device on their wrists day and night.
Ultimately, marketers understand (or I hope they do) that tossing banner ads onto people’s wrist is just a bad idea from the get-go. As devices get more personal, traditional advertising moves from intrusive to rude -- something closer to inserting audio spots into phone conversations. As channels weave their way more intimately into the minute-by-minute behaviors of consumers, advertisers need to rethink what advertising really is about.
That is going to be the topic of one of our SXSW panels this week. On Saturday, March 14, we ask executives from Hyundai, Discover and Adidas to contemplate marketing in the Internet of Things. You can tune in at our site.