Apr 28, 2015

Recently, Jony Ive gave an interview on the Apple Watch at the Conde Nast International Luxury Conference where he expressed that the intention of the Apple Watch was not to compete with traditional luxury goods, or even watches for that matter. He alluded to the capabilities of the Apple Watch, that it was much more than just a watch, being capable of many communication capabilities.

Why then — as mentioned by the interviewer — do these luxury brands (especially watch brands) feel threatened?

Sure, as I’ve mentioned in my previous post, Apple is beginning to market its lineup as fashion products more so than electronics products. But my gut feeling is that it is the name of the Apple Watch that really puts the watch brands in alert mode.

Let’s imagine for a moment that Apple decided to name the product “iWrist”. An iWrist does everything the Apple Watch does — it syncs to your iPhone, it tracks fitness stats, it has some novel new messaging and communication capabilities, it gives you notifications. Oh and by the way, it also tells the time. You know, just like your iPhone has the time on the home screen. The iWrist isn’t a watch, it’s a wrist-mounted electronics gadget.

Why didn’t these brands worry about the iPhone (which also tells the time, among other things) before this new product release then? It’s precisely because the name “Apple Watch” indicates that the product is moving into the watch space to compete with existing players. Isn’t it amazing how the name makes a difference?

If you’re still not convinced that marketing and positioning play a big role in shaping people’s perceptions, here’s another thing to think about. Jony has said in the interview that his intention was never for the Apple Watch to compete with or replace the traditional watch, just that the wrist happens to be a good place for people to place information. Now imagine what if the iWrist was marketed as a complementary device to the watch instead? What if the iWrist was meant to live on your other wrist? (we do have two after all) Had Apple marketed the iWrist this way from the start, I’m sure that there would be much less alarm bells rung in the ranks of watchmakers.

Ohhh, it’s for the other wrist. Watches still have a place on people’s wrists as a fashion statement.

Maybe Apple is trying to make “dual-wristing” a thing for the future, like what they’ve done with iPhones in shaping the phone industry and people’s behaviours.

Personally, I think dual-wristing is something I’d like to see becoming the norm for the future, and that we can all learn the lesson that the name and positioning of a product does mould people’s perceptions in certain ways, be in posing a direct threat in an industry or in selling a way a product is meant to be used.