Why the Apple Watch marketing drive could backfire

Apple switched its strategy for the Watch launch, taking out a dozen pages of ads in 'Vogue.'

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

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 its launch event this week and bought ads on Twitter to ensure it dominated the conversation. (That didn’t stop rivals such as Pebble from trying through their own feeds though).

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

Serious dollars
Johnson said at the Wearable Technology Show in London that Apple has traditionally had a smaller marketing budget than Samsung.

"A conversation I had with Apple years ago was about 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," he 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 $17,000, though cheaper models start at $350.

"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," said Greg Jones, commercial development director at well-known wearables firm Misfit.

Smartwatch-maker Pebble launched a rival device called Time Steel last week ahead of Apple Watch that costs just $250.

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

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

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

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

"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 said. "Apple is on the right path, marketing the product in Vogue and positioning it as a fashion item, which is in line with our strategy."

This story first appeared on Marketing.

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