Wearable technology is a super-hot trend right now and I absolutely “get it”, but I’m curious if the concept of the iWatch will run into a cultural, aspirational challenge in terms of going toe–to-toe with traditional signs of affluence and aspiration? Can they convince someone to wear an iWatch over a Rolex?
Most ambitious, professional men are raised to aspire to certain things, and almost every men’s magazine under the sun clearly states that one of the sartorial requirements for a professional man is a nice timepiece. A Rolex, Panerai, Omega, Breitling – these are all commonly referred to aspirational brands. Men want to have them and when they achieve a certain professional level, they tend to fulfill those desires. Does Apple, and Samsung for that matter, think they can overcome that aspiration and replace a Rolex with an iWatch?
The Apple brand is absolutely valuable, but it’s not as “valued” as these signs of affluence, and I wonder how they will tackle that challenge? This may feel like a silly topic to discuss, but if you dive into the business model for Apple, this is actually a real business discussion. Apple targets those with discretionary income as these people pay the prices for the iPhone, iPad, Macbook Air, etc. They are the core target audience. Are these people going to replace one aspiration with another? Are they going to work an iWatch into the rotation with their Cartier or IWC?
One cultural consideration – maybe the affluent, techie audience will start wearing a watch on both arms? This sounds preposterous and like something GQ will immediately nix, but there will likely be a portion of the audience that views the iWatch simply as tech, and not timepiece. A luxury brand watch on one arm and the digital lifestyle brand on the other. I would never wear two watches but more often than not I do have my FitBit on one arm and my watch on the other. From that perspective, it’s not as a far a stretch as one might imagine.
Another cultural consideration; are they going to buy a new watch every year or other year when the updated model comes out? The Apple lovers are known for standing in line to acquire the latest model, but will that apply to a watch? If it’s a watch of some value, will people really replace it every year? What about women? Are women the target audience for a techie-type watch or will they cater to the fashionista’s with different models targeting different segments of the audience?
The concept of wearable tech requires more sense of fashion than industrial design. The iPhone arrived in a beautiful form factor, immediately eclipsing everything else in the category and inspiring imitation from day one. A watch is a well-established piece of fashion and one that runs the gamut from trendy fad to timeless (pun intended) classic. Planning for an entrant in this highly anticipated category is no small feat and is most certainly why we have seen more rumors than action for such a long period of time.
Don’t get me wrong – I think Apple will sell millions of these things when they launch because I’m certain there is a portion of the audience that will want one, and achieving that dream will be well within their grasp. The younger audience will likely hop on this trend quickly, and some more established audiences will be interested as well. I am simply curious as to how Apple will tackle the age-old challenge of being a premium brand in a category that is considered far more premium than where they currently reside. Everyone has a cell phone these days, but not everyone has a luxury watch. Most people do wear a watch and that portion of the audience will certainly latch on immediately, but what about those higher-end targets? Will Apple partner with Rolex to develop the iRolex? Will they get in bed with Louis Vuitton for the iLouis?
It certainly makes for some interesting brand alignments, doesn’t it?