The Smartwatch is not The Smartphone, Brands Should Approach Accordingly

pebbleThe Apple Watch is just the latest gadget aimed at getting people to pay more attention to their surroundings and themselves as opposed to the screens of their phones. Combining the functions of the smartphone and a personal health tracker, smartwatches no doubt have the ability to collect far more information about the owner than the phone ever could.

These devices can detect heart rate, movement, body temperature, health status, and more, in addition to the typical information gathered by a mobile phone especially if these devices are linked to each other.  This clearly is a much more attractive proposition for brands than the personal phone, as a wrist gadget is that much more attached to the owner than a phone ever will be.

Setting aside potential privacy issues, which smartwatch makers no doubt already anticipated and acted upon, many, but not all, of these devices primarily serve as extensions of the mobile phone.

Smartwatches can easily be synchronized to a number of applications on the owner’s mobile device and whatever notification that are sent to the mobile, may be displayed on the watch depending on the settings.

According to Kemas Fadhli, digital marketing manager at Telkomsel, he has yet to see brands that are targeting smartwatches in Indonesia but, “in terms of interfacing with ads, there won’t be a significant change with SMS-based LBA [location based ads –Ed] because it’s sync’d with the phone”, he told AdDiction.

It’s tempting for brands to venture into this new platform but what seems most likely to happen is that brands will attempt to implement the same strategy and approach to the smartwatches the way they approached the smartphones. After all, that’s what happened when they first jumped on to the smartphone from the web and the web from print and broadcast media prior to that.

Many ads on the web, and even mobile apps, today are no different to billboard or broadcast ads and it wasn’t until recently that brand executives realized that running these traditional approaches to advertising on the web is not an effective strategy.

Even today many have yet to fully understand the diversity of consumer behaviors across different media. It’s easy to differentiate reactions to print media ads from television but when it comes to social media such as YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, the differences in consumer behaviors on these platforms are quite significant, yet many brands still approach them with the same strategy.

Right now brands are relying heavily on push notifications to deliver their messages to smartphones. It could be among the first things that consumers will have to look out for when they get their Android Wear devices or Apple Watches.

“Currently the mobile ad inventory, aside from SMS-based, are banners, in whatever form including interstitials or banners through apps”, Kemas added.

Notifications will be a battleground for brands here but unlike on smartphones, people may find them a lot more intrusive whenever these arrive on their smartwatches because attention value is much higher.

People can spend a long time actively using their mobile phones in one session but they’re not going to do the same with smartwatches because of the nature of the watch. At most, people will spend a few seconds at a time looking at their watches, mostly to glance information as interactivity is far more limited.

Another challenge with smartwatch advertising, Kemas said, is the need to opt in, which is where mobile coupons can come in. Forcing consumers to view ads on their smartwatches aren’t going to endear brands to customers so it needs to be relevant, appropriate, and participatory. Through applications, mobile coupons, that customers can sign up for, are easily adapted to the smartwatch format.

It seems inevitable that brands will attempt to profile smartwatch users because their aim is to get the most detailed customer profile and given what they have done with regards to mobile advertising, smartwatches may well herald more evolved forms of advertisements.


[header image by Ario Tamat]