I was at first alarmed to read Craig Palli of Fiksu’s thoughts on the Apple Watch. You can’t blame me for a moment of concern upon reading the words:

“For advertisers, the main question is how can you market to users of smartwatches and other wearables?”

That triggered a certain feeling of ‘here we go again’ - based on an acceptance or acknowledgement that, let’s be honest, marketers have a sometimes deserved reputation for ruining pretty much every medium ever designed or devised. Or as Julie Ask of Forrester put it in a recent Webinar, “we tend to apply old ways of things to each new technology we develop.”

Consider the email inbox - there’s plenty of smart, relevant and targeted marketing in there. But there’s a hell of a lot of nonsense too, and it took some smart people a considerable effort to save the experience from the attentions of these so-called ‘marketers’. It’s practically a miracle that the email channel still works as well as it does.

Which is why, in turn, I was relieved to read the following words:

“But be careful: given those increased opportunities, consumers are likely to be extremely sensitive to advertising, and clumsy marketing efforts could do more harm than good.”

That should be the headline.

Apple Watch certainly present a fabulous opportunity for marketers.  After all, consumers are taking the extraordinary step of strapping us to their bodies.

But it is one that needs to be handled with the utmost care. After all, everything that is exciting about the product for marketers (the fact that is sits right there on the wrist) is precisely what could turn unfocused and irrelevant marketing into a consumer nightmare.

Don’t forget - as The Fournaise Marketing Group will tell you, we, as marketers don’t have a great success rate anyway.  Most of our initiatives fail.  And as Julie Ask talked about in her book The Mobile Mind Shift, only 4% of mobile initiatives are successful.

The difference is that if we translate that sort of performance to Apple Watch, those campaigns are harder to ignore - and create active hatred rather than general indifference. Not great news for any brand that cares about building consumer relationships.

The Way Forward

So what’s the alternative to diving in feet first? How about taking a step back and admitting that when it comes to consumer preferences around Apple Watch marketing, we don’t know. That isn’t a defeatist attitude, more a recognition that when the stakes are this high, it may be worth collecting data first and acting later. How do users interact with Apple Watch? What apps do they use on the wrist, and which on the phone? Which notifications do they respond to? Which do they ignore? I’d like to know the answers to these questions before building out a campaign plan.

Which leads us to testing. If you have the opportunity to test Apple Watch campaigns, I would strongly suggest you take it. That means timing, content, short view, long view, Watch or Phone - whatever you can control and learn from. What users appear to like - do more of! What they dislike, less. It’s not complicated…  Get in touch with us.  We can help.

We might mock direct marketers for being ‘old-fashioned’, but in their world these calculations are always made (and tested). A small shift in response rate can be the difference between success and failure, so they pay attention to the numbers.

In the digital world, the low marginal cost of ‘one more message’ and the (sometime) failure to observe the negative effects digital marketing can have mean we have lost touch with these ancient arts that are, in truth, at the heart of smart marketing.

It’s time to bring them back.