The Apple Watch Release Made Me Doubt Everything I Know
By Jennifer Kohnhorst
I was working quietly at my desk, when suddenly, one of our designers burst out laughing. I glanced up, and he apologized, “Sorry, I’m just watching the Apple Watch reveal.”
What’s so funny you may ask? It was this particular line in the script that got him:
The traditional leather buckle band “references traditional watch vocabulary.”
So the Apple Watch … looks like a watch?
I’ve watched and re-watched the video several times now and have picked up a few other choice quips (please read in BBC accent):
“Navigation is fluid, and vital.” Fluid I understand, but isn’t all navigation vital to, you know, navigating?
On the digital crown: “It enables nimble, precise adjustment. And critically, you can use it without disrupting the display.” How about instead of critically, a word primarily used in the context of “having to do with critics,” you just say ‘most importantly’?
Apps are designed for “lightweight interaction.” This is a thing. But you might have to google it if you’re not a developer. You also might not care unless you’re a developer.
Tapping, sending a sketch and sharing a heartbeat, these are “subtle ways to communicate that technology often inhibits, rather than enables.”
Huh, that’s true I guess. Except, why do I want technology to handle my subtle interactions? I’ve yet to find someone who hasn’t winced at the idea of sharing a heartbeat.
“Instant access to a whole range of contextual controls.” Is this a deconstructionist watch? Oh, I meant that as a joke, but I think it actually is. But I don’t think that’s what they meant.
Apple “worked closely with horological experts from around the world to help us understand the cultural and historical significance of timekeeping, and this has profoundly informed our design.” Bullshit. I call bullshit. If you had considered the cultural and historical significance you would not have designed a phone for your wrist.
Now, I’m a copywriter, so for me, this is like a magician watching a magic show: I know your tricks. And as much as I find the parade of pretension a bit much to bear, I admire the elegance of language and I think I understand their position. They know that most of the people willing to invest 10 minutes into looking at a product release are either already Apple fans or tech geeks. This video, however, seems to be written to appeal to… I don’t exactly know. A very patient, retiring audience, I think.
So, who is the target market?
Well, the Apple Watch has a heavy emphasis on healthy lifestyle and collection of health data. One supposes that this is because spending by venture capitalists on biosensing wearables soared to $280 million last year from just $50 million in 2011, according to data from San Francisco digital health-focused venture capital firm Rock Health. So, even doubters and detractors can’t dismiss the potential of the Apple Watch to change how we view our own health, and interact with the healthcare system. Recent hires at Apple include heavy hitters in health tech, and they encourage the development of apps that interface with health and fitness systems.
Given that, is this narration geared towards fitness fanatics? Yoga instructors? Medical device developers? Yes, in part. But if Health Care (capital H and C) is to embrace the product, Apple would need to get broad consumer buy in first. Amiright?
So, they’re developing the product for one purpose, and selling it for another. Which might explain why this product, this video, feels so strained.
In 1980, Apple’s mission statement was: “To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.”
Another invective, stated over and over, is that the chief goal of in creating Apple products is to delight the customer. Delight. I think that’s a wonderful goal.
In this 2013 video, Apple contends that in product development the first question they ask is, how do we want the customer to feel? And then they build their “intention” around that. Again, a wonderful philosophy.
I do believe that it was thinking like this (different thinking, if you will) that brought us the incredible innovations that Apple has provided. They actually have revolutionized the way we communicate, connect and interact, for better or worse. I’m typing my big ideas on a beautiful iMac, I’m waiting for an important call from the man I love on my iPhone, I FaceTime my daughter when she is at her dad’s house.
I also think the Apple Watch is a purpose-built wearable designed to delight, yes, but also as part of a larger vision that has to do with measuring our activity, our heartbeat, our vitality. What will we do with that data? Use it to improve ourselves? One hopes. Will we use it to modify people’s health insurance premiums? Hmm. Will we use it to send EKG data to a cardiologist in the middle of an ahrythmia? Maybe. Will we use the Apple Watch to track people’s whereabouts, vitals, communication, all unwittingly? In some dark corner of the world, probably.
Tell me, how does it make you feel?
It’s a smart direction, but it is a departure from the persistent myth that Steve Jobs developed and so many of us enthusiastically bought into. Apple, with its groundbreaking design and elegant functionality made us believe that the future would be beautiful. And now, even as I’m often deeply conflicted about Apple — their environmental and labor practices, their proprietary monopoly on power cords, their uneasy relationship with artists and licensing — even now, I want to believe. Even as the hope for our humanity, our planet, grows ever bleaker, Apple’s ability to make my life easier, prettier and more seamless gives me hope.
Another quote from Steve Jobs which served as an Apple mission statement:
“Man is the creator of change in this world. As such he should be above systems and structures, and not subordinate to them.”
You see, my hope wasn’t misplaced after all! Except, except. All the gadgetry and gizmology in the world — no matter how simple, focused and elegant it is — can change the future. As long as we remain distracted by our delight, the world will continue to change not as we would create it, but change nonetheless, and we run the risk of being subordinated by systems and structures that are not cool. Oof.
Apple’s current mission statement?
Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.
It’s not a mission statement, it’s a product listing, and a pretty lame one at that. (I’d be happy to lead you through an exercise on this, if you’re interested!) Gone is the vision, dead is the leadership, over is the party.
Finally, the disillusionment is complete. Goodbye Apple and your myth of a shiny, utopian future. You may be a part of it, but in order to affect the future I want to envision, I’m required to do more than buy a phone, or a watch, or download an album. It’s been a delight.
Unless. Even the Lorax had a plan B. Unless Apple stops trying to be what they were and becomes something better. Steve Jobs led Apple, but a whole culture brought it to life. I propose that innovation, technology and the type of thinking that has defined Apple is precisely what is needed today.
And then, instead of asking “what do we want the customer to feel?” ask a broader question like, “what would ‘make a contribution to the world.’” And then build your intention around that. Then, sell the Apple Watch, in plain English, in the way that only you can. Go back and review your old, brilliant, 3-point marketing strategy from 1977: Empathize, Focus and Impute.
Think different, Apple, please.
Minneapolis-based Macleod & Co. is the Holistic Marketing Agency ™. We believe that in a hyper-social world, culture drives success, every employee is a customer touch point, and every customer is a broadcast network. We live at the intersection of marketing and organizational effectiveness. And we see marketing as the entire process of bringing a product, service or business from inception to maximum ongoing profitability.