ImageWhat these new slip-on gadgets mean to marketers

Like ladies of Hollywood lining up on the red carpet in bespoke couture, the big star of the International CES last week was something you could wear or carry.  But any smart marketer, or business person for that matter, needs to hang back a bit to see what the value of these devices might mean beyond the buzz factor.  For more on what went on at CES, follow our intrepid blogger Tom Teicholz for his take, exclusively on Social Media Today.

I’m not sure that any device can help my tennis game, but athletes wear the Fitbit or Jawbone Up to track their 
activity, sync stats, see trends, and reach their fitness goals. Professionals wear the smart watches to wirelessly connect to their smartphone so they don’t miss incoming calls and messages. And, of course, anyone doing anything wanting to capture everything hands-free wears Google Glass. Although these wearable tech devices are essentially add-ons, accessories, things attached to us, they can provide value in many walks of life. But listen up, marketers. The key word is: customer.  Oh, and a second one: data.

As wearables gain ground—they are projected to reach 100 million devices by 2016 and grow to a $19 billion industry before the decade is out—marketers must redesign the rules of marketing to fit this new disruptive technology.

Whatever you think of wearable tech—whether it’s a fad or the future—as a marketer you need to evolve your thinking with a larger emphasis on the consumer (i.e., consumer-centricity). So just when you thought it was safe to go back out there after the holidays and into the new year, it’s actually back to the drawing board. However, wearable tech eliminates broad assumptions we’ve had to make about our audience. Now it’s a matter of weaving value seamlessly into individuals’ lives with the type of messages they want to hear at particular times and places.  Further, once that value is achieved, and with the right approach to how it is being delivered AND respecting your customers’ privacy, then the opportunities to understand what your customer prefers and is willing to buy from you and when become staggeringly powerful.

To help fit into this new design of marketing rules, I emailed a few questions to Sandra Lopez, the marketing strategy director of Intel. Although it was a lot to ask of her since she was at the CES as Intel announced its ground-breaking fashion-tech collaboration, she graciously responded during that time.

 At this time, Intel is not commenting about the smart fashion products. “We are working out the details now with Opening Ceremony as we have just announced the collaboration,” she says. “The collaborations are a reflection of Intel’s vision and belief that the devices must first be something that you desire to wear, and then be functional to add value to your life. So if you believe in the idea of fashion first, then marketing should not be intrusive. They need to think about how they can enhance upon an experience to add value.”

I’ll keep you posted with more details on the fashion-tech alliance. For now, Lopez offers advice for helping marketers understand the mindset and needs of the customers who wear tech, and engaging with them through it. It doesn't matter if you're not remotely in either the tech or fashion industry. If the shoe fits...

…Add Support to It

I’m looking forward to watching wearable tech evolve, just as much as Lopez, “I am excited about the challenge and invite my fellow colleagues in marketing to begin to embrace the it. While wearable tech is still in its infancy, mass adoption is around the corner. As a marketer, I suggest becoming a student of wearable tech. By that I mean learn a lot and ask a lot of questions.”

One way I’ve been applying this is through reading—a lot. I read and reviewed the book, The Age of Context, by Shel Israel and Robert Scoble. Since the two traveled all over the world testing new products, talking to many tech CEOs, and asking even more questions about what all the innovations of mobile, sensors, data, social, and location-based tech mean for business, it’s a must-read for marketers who want to evolve with wearable tech. 

Lopez also recommends subscribing to the most meaningful news channels covering wearable tech. Here are a few:

…Wear It

“Purchase a wearable tech device that you would consider using,” Lopez says. “Use it and imagine experiences that could possibly be appropriate for your brand.”

Marketers need to build applications that will provide utility to the user, while simultaneously creating a relationship with the consumer.

…Take Care of It

Finally, Lopez says, is, “Ask your agencies, partners, and the people creating the technology to understand how as a marketer can we leverage the new technology to enhance your customers overall experience.”

Remember from Israel and Scoble’s book, context drives a more relevant message, such as targeted push-notifications. “So for example, if one of the features of a product is focused on quick notifications, then a restaurant could leverage that capability to notify their customer when their table is ready,” Lopez says. “Or if you are trying to drive awareness, explore promo notifications when a target customer is walking by your store.”

…Sell It

What a great team resolution for 2014 that Lopez suggests, “Set a goal for your team: To be considered as a leading brand marketer for the wearable tech platform.”

All of the above should help you get there. The journey is just beginning, as Lopez says. And I say, tighten your laces for the voyage that will change the landscape of marketing forever.