July 5, 2016 Last Updated 10:18 am

The Apple Watch: Where Apple went wrong, and how it can fix its ‘Most Intimate’ device

TNM earlier reported that the brand intimacy agency MBLM had concluded a 1-year study of the Apple Watch. Now, managing partner Mario Natarelli discusses their findings.

At MBLM, we conducted a year-long examination of Apple Watch users aged 13 to 65 years. Overall, our findings comprise about 1,750 open-ended responses and 50 hours of video footage.

Mario-Natarelli-208Apple got numerous things right about the Apple Watch, but also a few things wrong. Here is what we learned and our suggestions for improving.

What Apple Got Wrong:

  • Apple proclaimed this to be their most intimate device, yet their outreach, marketing and attitude toward the watch was and remains consistently aloof and identical to their other products; it is supported with their usual push-oriented media messages.
  • Users told us it has been radio silence on the watch from Apple. They couldn’t find enough ways to use the watch out in the wild or in the marketplace. Features like Apple Pay or hotel door/car access haven’t yet been fully realized.
  • The app community seemingly stalled on the watch, and what did Apple do to inject some inspiration or to incentivize developers to create more? They offered an upgraded Apple TV platform to attract developers.
  • What Apple took for granted in the marketing, support, and outreach for this unique device was that it could only be supported with similar methods as their roster of other products. Apple has built the most valuable and intimate brand by pioneering product-based marketing. Steve Jobs was driven by the belief that the best marketing followed or was subservient to the product (design/hardware/software) itself. The Apple Watch may be the first product that bridges a new and more intimate space with consumers. Thus, it requires a whole new paradigm of marketing to support it. Can Apple innovate their marketing to match their products? Will intimate devices require more relationship-oriented marketing?

What Apple can do to help alleviate these issues?

  • AVON CALLING: The Apple stores are incredible retail environments that have redefined standards on many levels. However, they may be less than ideal environments for the watch buyer. Why can’t Apple geniuses hold house gatherings with early adopters to try the watch out in a living room setting? Guiding and coaching users on tips and tricks and revealing how the watch would function best in a home environment.
  • THRIVE IN THE WILD: Like many Apple devices, the watch isn’t designed to play nice in the wider ecosystem of devices, peripherals and technologies. The watch really needs to connect better to payment terminals, door/lock access systems and more. If you’ve ever tried to contort your body at TSA check-ins or airline gates to get your watch through the scanners, you will know what we mean. Given Apple’s vast resources, couldn’t they have found both surgical and viral ways to have the watch connect better to the things that move us or enable us in the world?
  • INTIMACY MEANS DOUBLING DOWN: We’ve seen in other research studies that the closer a product gets to a person, the greater the level of trust that consumers need to have in a brand. Apple saw the intimate power of their device—they even promoted it as “our most intimate device”—yet they missed that the company and brand that delivers it need to go further than simply pushing the product. They left early adopters without any support. Without much follow-up, incentive, prodding, or cajoling, they seemed more interested in moving on to the next generation. Even smart thermostats try to reach out to you to remind you of your energy savings; couldn’t a watch that knows more about me than my thermostat reach out and try to enhance my life more?

Apple got the hard part right. By leveraging an immense amount of R&D, design, and engineering talent, they created a spellbinding and nearly seamless first generation device. However, despite the fact that the company that is most known for effective marketing and sales, their successful retail stores and some of the most iconic marketing of our generation, Apple missed the chance to extend and reach their new intimate users in more intimate ways. Version 2.0 of the Apple Watch will undoubtedly bring many phenomenal product improvements. It will be interesting if they also enhance the marketing.

Mario Natarelli is the Managing Partner of the New York office of MBLM.

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