Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The Apple Watch is En Vogue

The hype surrounding the launch of a new Apple product is usually unprecedented, but for the first time in a long time there has been a much slower build-up towards the launch of one of its products. Although the technology giant unveiled the ‘Apple Watch’ back in September, it won’t actually be made available for purchase until early next year, and since the initial announcement, only small details surrounding the Apple Watch have been released.

So when it was revealed last week that the Apple Watch was about to make its sartorial debut in the November issue of Vogue China, it suddenly made sense as to why Apple had been quite mum about its new product offering until now.

The Apple Watch on the cover of Vogue China (Source: BoF)

Given that the market for wearable technologies has been heating up for some time now, with offerings by Samsung and health focused brands such as Jawbone already available to the public, for Apple to successfully enter the market at this stage of the game it would need a product that not only outshines the competition, but re-defines the product category (like it did with the iPhone back in 2007). The Apple Watch delivers on this challenge with features that many other smart watches already offer, but additional capabilities like Apple Pay, and health tracking technology, that make other products in this category quite redundant. So although Apple has clearly come up with a superior product offering, it’s the way it has decided to position the Apple Watch as a premium fashion accessory that I find most interesting from a strategic perspective.

The first inkling of the fact that Apple was targeting the fashion industry was it’s decision to launch a showcase (much like any other fashion house would) in the middle of New York and Paris fashion weeks; inviting the fashion press and key figureheads of the industry (think Anna Wintour, Karl Lagerfeld) to experience the Apple Watch at their headquarters in California, and then later at the iconic luxury fashion boutique, Colette, in Paris. The second giveaway was the watch’s debut in Vogue China, in which it has its own fashion spread featuring Chinese supermodel Liu Wen, and was shot by noted fashion photographer David Sims.

Chinese Supermodel Liu Wen modelling the Apple Watch  (Source: BoF)

Despite the obvious reasons for debuting the watch in the Chinese market (a clearly booming economy with a pre-existing appetite for luxury fashion and Apple products), the fact of the matter is that Apple has recognised that unlike its previous product offerings, its latest product looks, functions and has been referred to as a ‘watch’, and thus automatically categorised as a fashion accessory. It therefore makes great sense that the company would need to carefully build the associations around its product as a truly fashionable watch, and what other way would it be able to do this than be featured in Vogue; the debatably ultimate source of fashion credibility.

As much as I could continue talking about Apple’s fashion debut, the key take away from their recent strategic moves is that they are no longer satisfied with just being a premium technology brand. It is clear that they’re eying the title of a fashion focused design house, and given this Vogue cover, it seems they are well on their way of achieving this.

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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