Why the Apple Watch marketing drive could backfire

Apple has stepped up marketing activity to push the new Apple Watch, but the strategy could backfire as rivals offering cheaper devices cash in on greater consumer awareness.

Apple Watch: marketing spend could have a halo effect
Apple Watch: marketing spend could have a halo effect

Unusually, Apple took out 12 pages of ads in Vogue in a bid to appeal to fashionistas, focusing on the aesthetics of the watch rather than the technology. 

It also got wise to the prospect of rival brands hijacking the launch event this week, and bought up ads on Twitter to ensure it dominated the conversation.  (That didn’t stop rivals such as Pebble from trying through their own feeds though).

Apple is on the right path, marketing the product in Vogue and positioning the watch as a fashion item

This education push is a departure from the norm, according to Dean Johnson, senior vice president of creative innovation at Brandwidth and occasional Apple consultant. One reason is because Apple not only has to sell its own product, but an entire category.

Serious dollars

Speaking at the Wearable Technology Show in London, Johnson said: "Apple in the past always had a relatively small marketing budget compared to Samsung.

"A conversation I had with Apple years ago was around the iPad and what threat the company saw from other tablets. The company said it was actually brilliant because consumers would see ads for another tablet, but then buy an iPad."

Johnson added: "With Apple Watch, there are real, solid advertising dollars behind this."

That means Apple may get a taste of its own medicine, as consumers become switched on to the idea of smartwatches, but decide to look for cheaper alternatives.

The high-end version of the smartwatch, Apple Watch Edition, costs as much as £13,500 in the UK, though the cheaper models start at £299.

Greg Jones, commercial development director at well-known wearables firm Misfit said: "You are going to be worried by Apple Watch, but it starts at $350, and there are still a lot of other players on the market if someone can’t afford that."

A rival device from smartwatch maker Pebble, called Time Steel, was launched last week ahead of Apple Watch and costs just $250.

Marketing wearables is tough

Apple isn’t the only brand with a tough marketing job on its hands.

LG has led innovation in smartwatches, with the LG G Watch R considered to be one of the best in class.

LG’s head of business development, Justin Jungsup Lee, told Marketing: "Internally, we find it very hard to find the marketing message and value [proposition] to convince customers."

However, Lee praised his rival’s strategy of trying to win over the fashion world.

He told Marketing: "The very moment you position this from being a functional device to a fashion device, it becomes a different story. The marketing message becomes clear and easy."

He added: "Apple is on the right path, marketing the product in Vogue and positioning [the watch] as a fashion item, which is in line with our strategy."


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