Apple's Watch pitch will rely on trumpeting 'intimacy'

New device requires a different marketing tack, one that stresses what it doesn't do, predicts analyst

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Apple will take a very different tack to market its new smartwatch than its usual approach for past products, an analyst predicted.

More information about the Apple Watch will be revealed later today, including prices and availability of the three models, at an event in San Francisco that will be live-streamed to owners of Apple devices.

To market the Apple Watch, the Cupertino, Calif. company will stress its "intimacy," said Jan Dawson, chief analyst at the independent firm Jackdaw Research.

"By 'intimacy,' I mean that the device is literally attached to your body, it will be highly visible on your body," said Dawson in a Friday interview. "Because of the vibrations and the feedback, it can also communicate without the user having to look at it."

That's very different than how one interacts with a smartphone, which is stored in a pocket or bag, then pulled out when it beeps, pings or rings, or when the user wants to, well, use it.

That intimacy will require a different sales, advertising and marketing approach for Apple. Rather than tout what it can do for customers -- usually with specific examples of specific tasks -- Apple will promote the new device on what it doesn't do.

The Apple Watch's most important job will be to cull the broad, often-constant information that surfaces on an iPhone -- the latter is required as a nearly constant companion for the Watch -- to make the wrist wearable "intimate."

"With the Watch, you won't have to communicate with everything and everyone," Dawson said. "You can focus on those things and apps that are most important to you, the people who are closest to you."

In Dawson's eyes, rival smartwatches have too little control over the notifications that they display. "It's all or nothing," he said. "But the Apple Watch will be very granular. You'll be able to receive notifications only on the subjects you really care about." That will be reinforced by the apps that live on the Watch itself, which most analysts, Dawson included, expect to become a lively and well-stocked market because of Apple's pull on developers.

"The challenge for Apple is that the Watch will be able to do more out of the box than [rival] smartwatches," said Dawson. "The challenge will be how to communicate the value of all of these things while focusing on one or two that demonstrate how they provide value" to an iPhone owner.

There are precedents of sorts, added Dawson, pointing to smartphones. In the heyday of the BlackBerry, that keyboard-driven smartphone was pitched as a companion to a personal computer, a device that let users conduct informational triage, handling the most immediate tasks, the most "intimate" in Dawson's definition, on the smartphone while leaving the remainder for time back in the office while in front of a personal computer.

In a follow-up post to his blog on Friday, Dawson elaborated on the comparison.

"I see the Watch performing a similar role in relation to smartphones, which have now become in some ways general purpose devices in a similar way to early PCs," Dawson wrote. "If the Watch is to succeed, it will do so by allowing us to focus on those tasks that are most important to us, stripping away the rest of the stuff we'll leave for our smartphones.

"And for many of us it will do this for our personal lives in much the way early smartphones did it for our work lives," Dawson concluded.

Apple may reveal this pitch later today during its analyst-and-media event that starts at 10 a.m. PT. Or not.

Today's audience, whether on-site or watching the webcast, will not be the typical customer, Dawson cautioned. Those who take in the live-stream will be the most dedicated, loyal among Apple's fan base, those who are first in line for a new iPhone and presumably, the most interested in getting a Watch straight away.

Apple will use its advertising -- which has already started in fashion publications -- to illustrate what it believes are the value propositions of the Apple Watch. Its retail stores will also help deliver the message to consumers.

"Retail is absolutely critical" to the Watch, said Dawson. "Apple's never about the hard sell [at retail], where it's much more about asking questions than pushing something specific. Retail gives Apple a unique opportunity, a unique advantage over other smartwatch makers.

"Think about going to Best Buy to shop for an Apple Watch," Dawson said, relying on what he clearly thought was a counter-factual. "It would be a nightmare. Salespeople there are overworked and unavailable and commission-driven. None would be a good fit for this device."

Apple's webcast can be viewed from the company's site starting at 10 a.m. PT, 1 p.m. ET, and as usual, will be limited to those running Safari on OS X or iOS, or who own an Apple TV.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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