Marketing the Apple Watch

When Apple releases a new product out to the world, the rest of the world listens. (We’ll even get up at ridiculous hours of the night to listen.) How could we not? This is the company that revolutionised music devices, that brought user-friendly touchscreen phones to the mainstream market, that basically invented the notion of a tablet interface – in short, Apple has created a string of electronic devices that we, the mass market, don’t even realise we want (arguably need) before we see it. As Steve Jobs famously declared “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups – a lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them’.

Besides attaching the word ‘Apple’ to ‘watch’ (which, let’s face it, is enough to generate all the publicity it needs), Apple has laboriously and strategically planned out its marketing campaign from start to finish. Let’s begin with the options and the price. Business Insider informs us that there are three version of the Apple Watch, with each version coming in two screen sizes. The cheapest watch, the Apple Watch Sport with aluminium casing and a rubber strap, starts at $US349. The most expensive Apple Watch Edition, made of 18-karat yellow or rose gold, will range from $US10,000 to $US17,000. (That’s approximately $24,000 AUD folks!)


Becoming a ‘technology-based luxury brand’

Apple initially signalled its strategy to become a ‘technology-based luxury brand’ by famously hiring Angela Ahrendts – the former Burberry CEO who is renowned for turning the brand around from its mid-2000s decline. After the appointment, we have seen Apple consistently place an extra emphasis on design and style during the creation of the watch, led by Apple’s lead design chief Jonahan Ive. Within the industry, technology’s growing relationship with fashion is seen to be pivotal for new wearables. This makes sense: appealing to early geeky adopters will no longer cut it – wearables need to be aesthetically appealing to penetrate the mass market.

Apple’s price discrimination clearly seeks to differentiate its consumers and segregate them out into entering the market at different price points. The brand has worked hard for us to view the product as an ‘aspirational’ luxury item, particularly creating a gold plated watch that is (almost) the envy of all techies. These watches have starred in their own 12-page page spread in Vogue’s March edition which, reportedly, has cost north of $US2.2 million. (But, you’ve got to admit, nothing screams style and luxury more than appearing in Vogue.) Limiting the distribution channels of these Apple ‘Edition’ watches to only a select few up-market retailers also seeks to create a sense of scarcity, status and prestige.

The market

It’s all well and good to declare and position yourself as a luxury brand, but who is Apple actually targeting? Asia (but mostly, China). Status and symbolism are key to the Chinese market and, by depicting themselves as ‘the’ technology-based luxury brand, Apple is looking to target the growing wealthy populace of China. The country is forecast to account for as much as half of global luxury goods sales by 2025 and more than 20% of Apple’s worldwide revenues – $US16.1 billion – came from the Asian region alone.  In his keynote, Tim Cook also announced that the brand now has 21 retail stores in China and has plans to continue their growth throughout Asia.

Here’s Apple’s ad for the watch: As usual, no spec details, no superstars, no anything. Just (the) watch.


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