I’m stuck in a mild quandary about whether to bother writing about the Apple Watch or not…

If you care enough about Apple’s entry into the world of wearable technology then you would’ve surely been glued to your MacBook or iPad Mini last night. Poring over the details delivered via keynote speech and already fully sated with every possible specification of the Apple Watch (emphatically no longer referred to as the ‘iWatch’).

Or if you’re everyone else in the world, your reaction is probably more along the lines of this…

I would be lying if I didn’t agree. 

However as a writer for a popular digital marketing blog (this one, just in case that wasn’t clear) I have a responsibility to seek out a balanced truth on the usability and marketing capabilities of all possible platforms and technologies that may come our way. Even a solid gold watch.

So here’s a brief overview of the Apple Watch, the marketing opportunities that present themselves on the device and whether they sound like a stupid idea or not.

Apple Watch: the stuff you need to know

  • It’s out next month on April 24. Preorders are being taken from April 10. Orderly queues have already begun forming, so shut down your computer, leave work immediately and head to your nearest Apple Store right now. Don’t worry about your children, they can feed themselves.
  • It will come in three different styles, priced as follows: the standard Apple Watch starting at $549, the Apple Watch Sport starting at $349 and the Apple Watch Edition starting at… you’d better sit down for this… and put your hot drink down too… $10,000. 

  • The Apple Watch Edition is made from 18-karat gold and should be able to fire lasers, silence all car alarms in a 10-mile radius and control the mind of any pet or teenager in your own home for the price. 
  • The Apple Watch will of course be synched to your iPhone, therefore it will show call alerts, emails, Facebook updates, tweets... basically any notification you receive on your iPhone.

  • Oh yeah… you need an iPhone in order to use Apple Watch.
  • You’ll be able to control your music through the Apple Watch. Siri is on hand to help you with any basic needs (“where the hell did I leave my phone?”) and there are a plethora of fitness and workout monitors to feed your increasing health anxiety. 
  • Third party apps are available and have been in development since last November. These include Uber, Instagram, Shazam and CityMapper.
  • The Apple Watch doesn’t utilise touch-screen technology for general navigation, as of course the display will be entirely obscured by our big fat fingers, instead it’s all done using the ‘Digital Crown’ on the side allowing you to scroll, zoom and navigate.

  • Apple Pay will be available for instant payments. You don’t need to tap it, just hold your wrist near a reader. Careful now, you just bought me a coffee.
  • It’s not terribly waterproof.
  • It tells the time.

Marketing opportunities

As long as there’s a screen, there’ll be a way to serve you an advert on it.

The Apple Watch will have full iBeacon capability, so you can be sure that when you walk into an Apple store wearing the watch you’ll be greeted with all kinds of notifications and marketing messages. 

This won’t just happen in Apple stores though. According to AdWeek US supermarket chain Marsh has installed iBeacons in all of its 75 stores, so that when anyone wearing an Apple Watch enters the store, they will be sent beacon-triggered reminders.  These can range from discount offers, special deals, to opening shopping lists or wishlists installed on your watch.

So, this brings us to the ultimate question…

Marketing on the Apple Watch: terrible idea?

I’ve yet to be thoroughly convinced about the importance of wearable tech in our everyday lives. I think it’s far more niche than developers and marketers would have us believe.

However the application of wearable technology in the world of health and fitness is huge and is genuinely making a massive difference to the lives of a wide range of people. From athletes needing a convenient and accurate way to store data to regular people who just want to improve their everyday fitness with a pedometer. 

Outside of this though there is very little to convince me that the Apple Watch is little more than a device for people who are too lazy to take their phone out of their pocket when they receive an alert.  

There’s nothing that can be done on the watch that can’t be done on an iPhone. The difference is that on an Apple Watch it will be much smaller. Is anyone really going to look at Instagram on a 38mm screen?

As for advertising on the Apple Watch, imagine how irritating it would be if the basic function of a watch, showing you the time, is obscured by an ad too tiny to read.

That’s probably an extreme example, as the Apple Watch is notification-based and hopefully marketers have learnt from experience that an ad format served successfully on one device will not necessarily work just as well on a different one.

On a smartphone, marketers use notifications to advertise. These notifications only occur of course if the user has the specific app downloaded. If the notifications are too intrusive or frequent, the user will delete the app. 

Now translate that to a screen which is 81mm smaller and that you carry on your wrist all day long.

I’ll keep my old Casio thanks. It's got a calculator on it.

For more on Apple from the blog, read some semi-rational thoughts on Apple, U2 and nefarious marketing practices.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 10 March, 2015 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Comments (10)

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Steve Walters, True Marketing Consultant with a difference at Small Business Helper

Great read! Refreshing character injection into this 'review'.

I take it you're not a fan of apple? I'm not particularly. Despite wanting to try and join the Apple movement craze, whenever I've compared side by side to the competitors there have always been massive shortfalls. Like screensize, weight, freedom & flexibility, customisation options etc.

over 3 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

Good summary. Yes, the Apple watch is all about notifications.

This has benefits in situations where you get a notification but can't easily take out your phone (e.g. when driving, or in a meeting) and I'd expect it to encourage hyper-social apps where notifications are very frequent. OTT data input is largely by dictation, which limits its use in public.

For marketing, one important aspect is its use as a payment device which e.g. can keep track of offers that you quality for - no more coupons.

over 3 years ago

Des Kennedy

Des Kennedy, Managing Director at Infinite Design Consultants

Great article!

As a loyal Apple customer I’ll be interested to see what happens with the Apple Watch.

I agree with the point about wearable tech being more niche than marketers would have us believe.

Also for the first time they have entered a market that they did not create (jewellery).

The price point is interesting too. If you have $10,000 to spend on a watch are you really going buy a piece of tech that Apple may not support in 2 years? Or 18 months in the case of the first iPad. A Rolex would hold its value but the depreciation of the Apple Watch will (presumably) fall off a cliff!

Could this be Apple’s biggest failure since The Cube? 

over 3 years ago


Kyle Mallinger, Digital Marketing Director at Millennium Integrated Marketing

At the end of the day, there’s just no topping the Casio. If the Apple Watch wasn’t so ridiculously expensive and didn’t rely on an iPhone to operate, I might jump on the bandwagon. But until that day comes, I’m with you on this one. That new MacBook on the other hand…

over 3 years ago


Kai Crow, Marketing Director at VMob

Just to clarify one point you make around beacons: Not trying to be that annoying stickler, but it's not quite right that simply walking into any Marsh supermarket with beacons installed will trigger a notification on your new "smart" Apple watch. Exactly the same as beacon triggered messages on your phone, you first have to had installed the Marsh app on your watch and phone (and in that process opted-in to share your location and receive push notifications from Marsh) in order for it to trigger the message - without the corresponding app and permissions the beacon is still seen by the watch and phone, but nothing will happen.

over 3 years ago


Chris Monkman, Web Developer at E-Dzine

But who wants to spend $10,000 on an item that's going to be obsolete in 3-4 years time?

It's not like i'm going to be able to hand it down through the generations (I've got a 40 year old cheap seiko 5 watch. Still does exactly what it does the day I bought it. Tell the time.. I don't even have to charge it daily since wearing it winds it for me). At least with something like the pebble watch they've announced on going support for it, nor am I limited to one eco system.

So grab the popcorn, gather the kids and watch the beginning of the downfall of a company now believing their own hype.

over 3 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

@Chris Monkton. Really good point if Apple want to succeed. This is the first iOS product with a replaceable battery, so it's clear that Apple are aware that "disposable" and "luxury" don't really go together.

The success of vertu shows that high-end phones don't have to be the latest spec, so we'll have to see if Apple will provide replacement electronics when upgrade time comes.

over 3 years ago


Tony Edey, . at RCL Cruises Ltd

The Apple Watch future developments should prove interesting if the iPod > iPhone > iPad journey is anything to go by. In 5 years time the latest version of the watch should be the size of a side plate.

Siri on my wrist? Has 1970s sci-fi actually come true and we'll all be talking to our wrist communicators? Now where's my ihoverboard and lovebot Apple?!

The image of the Sport Watch above is interesting. So their target market need to know what time the sun sets... that makes their target market... vampires? Handy that it tells you where you are though, so few people seem to know that.

It all really does strike me as technology for technology's sake.

Bah humbug etc.

over 3 years ago


Steve Walters, True Marketing Consultant with a difference at Small Business Helper

@Des Kennedy - out of interest... What do you mean by: "for the first time they have entered a market that they did not create" ?

My understanding is Apple have never created any of these markets they've just popularised them (/made mainstream) by introducing better U/I (simplicity largely).

eg.I had MP3 players well before Apple launched their iPod (namely Creative Labs and Archos). I had a touchscreen phone (Sony Ericson & HTC i think) well before Apple launched their iPhone.

Apple's 'pull' has usually been: 1.Looks and 2.Usability(innovatively so)
... so perhaps we need to understand reviews of how Apple's Watch feels & looks compared to others already on the market - as that's where Apple came into their own with both iPod and iPhone. ie.If they're significantly easier to use and look cooler then they'll win the popularity contest.

WATCH THEIR VIDEO - They've done it again!
My guess is they will do so with this Apple Watch product - if you watch their Key Note talk (jump to 52mins exactly to see the Watch part), in my opinion they are laying claim to what is already out there in some shape or form and has been for years - however, they've made it attractive - Gorgeous looks and Innovative on the Usability front.

over 3 years ago

Des Kennedy

Des Kennedy, Managing Director at Infinite Design Consultants

@Steve Walters

You're right Apple's innovation has always come from a fusion between beautifully designed hardware and easy to use operating systems.

The MP3 market was in its infancy and Apple's real innovation was not the device as such but iTunes (10,000 songs in your pocket).

They invented the well designed and easy to use computer (which Windows stole), smartphone and tablet. Then took them into the mainstream in the same way.

All in the tech space.

If we ask ourselves what motivates people to buy an expensive watch it's a different challenge. They are competing with Rolex, Omega, Brietling et al. A mature market of well designed timepieces with provenance.

Yes there are other smart watches but I think that sub-market will be niche.

over 3 years ago

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