3 Trends That Make the Apple Watch Important for Marketers

It's about behavior, not technology

In June 2007, Apple changed its name from Apple Computers to Apple, a small change in wording that signified a vast shift in focus.

Distancing itself from the world of computing and productivity, Apple became a consumer-focused electronics company in entertainment, music and fun. With the launch of Apple Pay and the Apple Watch this week, we see another leap toward bridging the Internet and the real world—a very lucrative place to be.

We may think Apple’s game-changing quality comes from the products it makes, but the real profoundness comes from the new behaviors it enables and makes acceptable. Even the company's latest offerings—from phones to watches to payment services—are by any rational measure equal to the best of what’s out there. Apple, be it through its size, popularity, design or corporate power, dominates by changing how we all behave.

While not the first to imagine, design or create touchscreen technology, it was Apple alone that created a new behavior, leading to a generation of kids to gasp in horror if they can’t swipe, pinch and zoom on a TV or microwave screen.

Interestingly, Apple is very late to near-field communication, but it could unleash a new era in tapping where we expect the real world and the Internet to connect in a tactile way in key moments around us.

Now, marketing people may think that Apple Watches are a wonderful new playground for digital agencies and for app developers and mobile advertising agencies to get stuck in. They may expect a new breed of ultra mobile agencies to cram yet smaller ads onto the smaller screen, but that would be a big mistake for everyone. This affects all of us.

Marketing made huge mistakes around 2000 when we coined interactive agencies (later named digital) and kept creating new units as distinct verticals within our business. When social media followed, we did the same and replicated the approach again with mobile and content. It’s now likely that a small client may have 11 vertical agencies, from PR to content, advertising, digital, social, CRM, media and more.

What we should have done is consider new technology and new behaviors as horizontals that sweep across marketing, as digital becomes the oxygen that breathes life into ideas in all marketing channels. Social and content become a tool that can aid PR, CRM and advertising, while mobile also becomes a key horizontal to work across all channels.

The announcement of Apple Pay, the iPhone 6 with NFC, the Apple Watch and the soon-to-launch iOS8 holds meaning for everyone in the industry because it affects all marketing channels. It brings about new platforms, NFC—a new(ish) way for brands, retailers and people to connect and witness entirely new behaviors.

Consumer behavior is the bedrock of marketing, so it’s essential that we all understand what will be changing and how to explore it.

Here are three trends to consider:

A smaller focus: In the past 200 years, we’ve shifted from massive displays to ever-smaller devices, from movie screens to TVs to computers, smartphones and smart watches. Our vision narrowed down to a hyper-focused viewpoint, and from a “lean back" environment to a “lean forward,” and finally, to the “look down." We’re rapidly going in a direction where ads become more and more unwanted, so we need to move away from the interruption and engagement approach to adding value. How can brands add value in this new world?

Predictive approach to advertising: Increasingly, devices are recording more and more personal information, from our heartbeat to our locations, movements and intentions. Devices can now make more accurate predictions than ever about our known and unknown needs. How can brands find ways to use that information in order to provide value and service to consumers?

Gateway between the digital and real world: The smartphone and Apple Watch aren't about making calls or telling the time, but about connecting the real world with the Internet and all of our personal information that exists in the digital realm. Our focus now needs to be on how brands can explore this interface. How do we become more useful in this layer? Do we allow our rental cars to be picked up with a tap, do we apply a useful layer to payment data, and what do we do with coupons and ticketing?

We may not all care much about technology, but every marketer should be obsessing about what these new behaviors mean, what threats they create and what opportunities they open.

Tom Goodwin (@tomfgoodwin) is the CEO and founder of the Tomorrow Group