Will Apple Watch Make Marketers’ Hearts Flutter?

For around $300, one can buy a Citizen Eco-Drive watch that runs forever on natural or artificial light. So a $549 device that has to be removed and put on power life support every 18 hours can hardly be called a watch. Plainly, the Apple Watch is more than just a timekeeper, but will it serve any useful purpose as a brand-builder or conversion-maker?

“I don’t think this will be a game-changer for marketers the way iPad and iPhone was, but I don’t want to bash it outright because in time it might warrant extra investment from marketers. It took the iPad a while to develop,” says Tom Bash, a senior executive of Exponential, a digital advertising company. “The Apple Watch will create some unique and interesting one-to-one opportunities. I just don’t know whether there’ll be the scale.”

The blogo- and Twitter- spheres united around some common criticisms of Apple Watch. There were the techno-geek/non-watch wearers who’d happily line up for the next iPhone but had no intentions of strapping it to their wrists. There were watch fanciers who mocked the cheek of Apple for asking $10,000 for a “Watch Edition” version that would be obsolete in two years when one could use that sum to purchase a low-end Rolex that will last forever and increase in value. And there were marketers and business strategists who wondered exactly what the killer app of the Apple Watch was.

Mobil agency Urban Airship, for one, is more taken with the marketing possibilities of the device than its obvious deficiencies. It issued a “Watch Notifications Inspriation Guide” minutes after Apple CEO Tim Cooks completed his unveiling of the watch on Monday. Urban Airship is partially in the camp of Tweeters who say, “If Apple builds it, they will come,” citing an NPD study saying that there is 50% wearable awareness in the marketplace. The agency is convinced that Apple Watch will provide companies with a new advertising time slot, one that Forrester Research has labeled “glanceable’ moments.” It sees the Apple Watch’s “taptic engine” –which gently taps the wrist of a wearer to notify it of a communication—as a conduit to more customer interactions. Interactive buttons on the watch, it adds, enable immediate interaction not possible with other devices and beacons will be able to blithely interact with watch wearers at retail.

Apple Watch’s most profound marketing impact,however, might first reveal itself the B2B arena. In tandem with the product’s introduction, Salesforce.com introduced Salesforce for Apple Watch with the prounouncement that “cloud, social, mobile, and data science revolutions are converging on the wrist.” Through the Salesforce 1 function, sales managers can be in constant contact with reps wherever they may be–alerting them to immediate opportunities, dispatching customer intelligence, or immediately approving deals during face-to-face sales calls. Through the Analytics Cloud, marketers can interact with dashboards and react to real-time marketplace changes. Already having introduced integrations with a dozen other wearables, Salesforce views the Apple Watch announcement as a culmination of the effort.

“This is going to allow companies to connect with their customers and their own people in a way they have never had before,” proclaims Michael Peachey, VP of solutions and product marketing for Salesforce.com. “That screen is designed for 10-second interactions. It can nudge people. In a glance, they can see if they need to take action.”

From PCs to iPods to iPhones and their screen-swipe technology, Apple has long been in the business of decreasing people’s attention spans. It’s not unthinkable, then, that the 10-second interaction ends up being the optimal one for brand-building among consumers. That’s about as long as many people get into videos before moving on. But marketing within that time frame will pose strategic and creative challenges.

If there are eyeballs on Apple Watch screens, there will be ads. The question is, what form they will take to create an experience that delivers real value for both the user and the marketer,” says Mike Kisseberth, CRO of Purch, a publisher of product reviews and deal information for shoppers. “End-user interactions with the device are inherently brief, so marketers will have to identify the right combination of functionality and data to trigger the best results.”

Due to Apple’s obsession with its users’ privacy, Bash of Exponential thinks it’s doubtful that traditional advertising and tracking methods will emerge on Apple Watch. “The more important question is what level of access advertisers will have to the additional data generated by the Apple Watch ,” he says.

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