Brands and Wearable Tech


Jide Sobo, Head of Mobile, MEC Interaction

The last week of September saw Social Media Week come to London, and with the tag line of Re-imagining Human Connectivity, it was the perfect opportunity for MEC to host an open session on Wearable Tech.

For me, one of the hardest things to grasp, about Wearable Tech, is exactly what we mean by it. We have been wearing varying forms of technology for centuries. Things like watches and glasses (the traditional type, not those made by Google) are both forms of technology that we are all familiar with, so perhaps we mean Connected Wearable Tech. And where do we draw the line between “wearing” technology, and simply carrying it? I think we’d all consider a jacket with an integrated iPhone to be Wearable Tech, but what makes that different to simply carrying your iPhone in your jacket pocket?

However you define it, Wearable Tech is big business, worth somewhere in the region of $2 billion. Of this, Fitness Trackers account for around $330 million and are the most popular devices. Other types of devices cover areas such as Eyewear, Clothing and Medical. Individual devices range from the potentially useful (Smartwatches) to the frankly bizarre (shoes that tweet, anyone?).

It’s clear that this is a big, and varied, market, but what does it mean for brands, and how, if at all, can they use wearable devices for marketing purposes?

Firstly, let’s simplify things slightly and confine ourselves to thinking about wearable devices that have some form of digital screen and internet connectivity. The obvious route is to treat these as another digital screen and look at ways to transpose our beloved PC and smartphone formats to them. However, the sheer number of different physical forms for these devices means that there is no standardisation, making the production of creative both costly and time consuming. Add to that the typically tiny screen size, and we can see that this is not the sensible route to take.

Perhaps a better first step for brands would be to consider the incredible amount of data that these devices can generate, and how this can be used to provide more in-depth insight that can be used to power advertising on other platforms, or that can even be integrated into business practices.

We have already seen insurance companies offering cheaper car insurance to drivers who agree to fitting their car with a telematics device, which provides data on their true driving style, allowing more accurately priced policies. How long will it be before we see the same insurance companies offering cheaper life assurance policies to people who agree to use a fitness tracker?

But this data can also be used to help create more accurate audience segments, which are highly relevant for some brands. Sports brands may want to reach people who exercise a lot with one type of message, and those that don’t exercise as much with another message. Similarly, diet, or healthy eating brands may want to target people in a similar way. It’s not going to be relevant for all brands, but there are definitely some that can do a lot with this type of information.

Obviously, privacy is going to be a concern, but this is a problem that needs to be addressed across the wider digital ecosystem anyway. Data is a powerful tool in providing consumers with relevant marketing messages, but how much are those consumers willing to allow themselves to be tracked? Wearable technology means that it is potentially possible to track people 24 hours a day, although as I mentioned earlier, carrying a smartphone with you is tantamount to the same thing, so we are almost there already.

It’s still early days for wearable technology, with consumers still working out how it can improve their lives, so there’s still time for brands to work out the best way to get involved. However, there are two things that we should learn from the rise of the smartphone. Firstly, mass adaptation, once it starts, will happen far quicker than we think. And secondly, trying to shoehorn old ad models into a new platform doesn’t work.

Written by

Jide Sobo

Head of Mobile

MEC Interaction

One thought on “Brands and Wearable Tech

  1. Hi Jide, great post! I get that wearable technology can have it’s benefits i.e. all of these health tracking bracelets that we see but i’m not sure if it can really go any further than that. Look at how protective we are of our phones- would we suddenly start walking around with £1000+ google glasses on our face? From a fashion perspective men’s watches are one of the few luxury accessories we allow ourselves- are we really going to replace the TAGs with a £100 orange leather watch that tells us our mother in law is on the phone? I get some of the benefits and some of the issues of wearable tech but i just really don’t see it catching on!

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