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Will Advertising Enter the Wearables Market?

Posted by Dale Carr on March 4th, 2014 at 11:26 am

The mobile device is personal. Most of us keep our phones or tablets less than 3 feet away from ourselves at any given time. It is the first thing we check in the morning and the last thing we look at before going to sleep. For many, our mobiles serve as our morning alarm, primary mode of communication, research tool when shopping, calculator, compass, and that’s not counting the millions of utility and entertainment apps available that keep our days humming along more efficiently.

So what’s even more personal than a mobile device? Well, computing is extending beyond mobile screens and will now be embedded into the products you wear. There are intelligent bras, shirts and jackets. And glasses, goggles, wristwatches, fitness trackers and jewelry to name a few – now with the ability to keep you connected and provide useful data in various fashionable forms. It’s still an emerging market, but we’re already seeing an explosion of new wearable products surfacing. In fact, research firm ABI estimates the wearables market will hit $6 billion by 2018.

For advertisers, the draw to mobile is that the device is highly personal and relevant in the users’ lives. Given that nothing seems more personal than your bra or glasses, will this enthusiasm and interest to reach consumers transfer to the wearables market?

Let’s imagine the possibilities. Will a runner wearing a fitness tracker want to know if vitamins, athletic shoes or Gatorade is on sale at her local stores? Will a woman wearing an iPhone-connected bracelet/cuff appreciate a Starbucks deal delivered while passing its storefront? Will a skier enjoy the ability to retrieve a special offer for a free ski lift right from the slopes via the enabled goggles or wristwatch he is wearing? There’s infinite potential here.

Yet -- There is a time and place for advertising. There is a responsibility toward safety and delivering messages in a manner that will not distract a user or be intrusive, but provide value. After all, that is the ultimate goal for any marketer – to win the hearts and minds of the end user.

Wearables are designed to deliver utility-based experiences and their success hinges on the usefulness of the data and insights delivered through the piece (as well as their form and style factor, which is raising the bar for tech design and aesthetics, but that’s a separate post altogether). That said, I believe advertising will have a place within wearables as the market matures, but respecting the inherent purpose of the wearable item will be the single priority and the toughest challenge for marketers and technology partners looking to embrace the next wave of computing.

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