Mel Exon is managing director, BBH London, and co-founder of BBH Labs.@melex
Not all that long ago, I found myself standing outside the door of a meeting room. I was a few minutes late. Or rather, I was late again. For the umpteenth time this year.
I loathe being late. ‘Late’ says I don’t care. ‘Late’ says that if I have the time-keeping abilities of a five-year-old, it must call into question how competent I am in all other parts of my life.
Enter Apple Watch. Around this time last year, I suggested that the impending launch of Apple’s wearable device might be the shot in the arm the industry needed to reach mainstream, everyday use.
Since its launch, there has been the usual tussle between Apple fans and Apple cynics predicting instant success or demise.
It is still too early to say whether the watch is the new iPhone – set to smash technology records and change our lives – but 3.6m units sold and more than $1bn taken in revenue in its first quarter suggests Apple Watch isn’t doing too badly, even if first-quarter sales are no indication of long-term success or failure.
For the time being at least, Apple Watch looks to be the best chance the wearable sector has of achieving that mainstream adoption I talked about, with market intelligence firm IDC stating that it is selling six times as many units as its nearest rival, the Samsung Gear.
Apple creates a rising tide that floats several boats
Sales figures aside, why are the fortunes of Apple Watch worth following, and what has it to do with saving me from my (unpunctual) self?
As many analysts have said, it will be in the subsequent generation of devices that we will see whether the Apple Watch is a sustainable business and able to attract users beyond the group Will.i.am calls ‘geeks and chics’. However, as marketers, we can learn from the pattern of adoption.
The company is rarely the first mover in a category such as this one, but, as IDC put it: "[Apple’s] participation benefits multiple players and platforms within the wearables ecosystem, and ultimately drives total volumes higher." In layman’s terms, Apple creates a rising tide that floats several boats, sweeping all before it with a more distinctive product that increases awareness and desire, while reducing the confusion that often accompanies new technology. Food for thought for market-leaders and their competition in other categories.
That is also likely to be the case with the Apple Watch, as even this first version has much that other makers of wearables may want to emulate, from small gestural things, such as the watch face ‘waking up’ as you flick your wrist toward you (and off as your wrist turns away), to the haptic notifications and reminders that are elegantly and lightly rewarding in a deeply private way.
At a time when the pendulum has swung to ‘large’ in terms of the size of the technology we carry around, this intimacy feels different and good. And when it comes to the need to juggle the daily demands upon my time… well, there’s a haptic vibration for that. A few minutes before my next meeting, it acts as an invisible tap on the shoulder telling me to wrap up.
These features may not transform the way I do things, but as consistent, daily nudges, they are a step toward a personal culture of consistency, and can therefore help improve the culture of the organisation for which I work. As the founder of Basecamp, Jason Fried, once wrote: "You don’t create a culture.
Culture happens. It’s the by-product of consistent behaviour. Real cultures are built over time. They’re the result of action, reaction and truth. They are nuanced, beautiful and authentic. Real culture is patina."
I love the idea of culture as patina. If any of us think ‘how you get through your working day around here’ isn’t a contributing factor to our own organisation’s culture, we probably need to think again, because any technology or device that exists to help us cope with the demands on our time in small yet pervasive, daily ways feels like something that will win in the end.