According to legend, Apple started out in a basement and went on to produce some of the finest personal computers until the 1990’s, when the company’s sales declined due to the increase in competition. Apple had struggled to launch anything that captured the imagination of the public in years and in 1997, the company was 6 months from bankruptcy. Enter Steve Jobs. LA advertising agency TWBA\Chiat\Day received an invitation from Jobs to see their new consumer product. A radical, translucent, teardrop-shaped machine designed specifically for the internet. Jobs asked the advertising agency to develop a name that referenced the Macintosh brand, and the agency delivered. The result was the iMac.
With this, the company reinvented itself and the iconic product designs have helped Apple to pioneer a cultural shift in which technology is actually deemed fashionable. It’s quite profound when you think about it. Emphasis on design shares equal significance as the function of a product, if not more. A product that immediately exhibits what the consumer believes themselves to be, or how they want to be perceived. A product that consumers are willing to pay a premium for, much like in the fashion industry and nothing demonstrates this more than the launch of Apple’s latest product, the Apple Watch.
With Apple inviting top fashion editors and bloggers to the media event, many had expected the reveal of the smart watch. However, few expected the company to drop the time-honoured ‘i’ from its next big thing. The ‘i’ prefix originally stood for internet and went on to be applied to a range of products such as the iPod, iPad and the iPhone.
There have been many imitators who have adopted the ‘i’, although some of them have wildly missed the mark…
The infamous prefix is so widely used now, that Apple actually risk facing a legal dispute every time they launch a new product. But is it a question of copyright disputes or is there something else at play here? Could it be that Apple is targeting a different audience with its latest innovation, or has the ‘i’ simply become so worn-out that it is no longer… fashionable?
Apple’s place in technology is undisputed, but the notion to bring a smart watch to market seems a little contrived. Since the passing of Steve Jobs, the company’s direction has been met with some scepticism and its famed reputation for innovation called into question over predictable product lifecycles. Consequentially, the Apple Watch almost feels like a half-baked attempt by the tech giant to evade slipping into a state of stagnation.
It is hard to believe that it will become iconic as other items in the firm’s catalogue because its purpose is unclear. You need to pair the watch with an iPhone. Considering that many people use their phone to check the time instead of wearing wristwatches, the idea of it being used as a timepiece is somewhat redundant. The watch’s function as a gadget is just as ambiguous as it simply doesn’t do much more than your regular smartphone is capable of. Sure, there may be a few new features for fitness buffs, but it’s not exactly revolutionary.
So if it’s not primarily a timepiece, nor a gadget, what is it?
Simply put, it’s a fashion accessory. That’s what a watch is. Starting at $349, the Apple Watch is positioned as a luxury item and luxury watchmakers like TAG Heuer and Patek Phillipe will tell you, timepieces are less about time and more about image.
Does Apple have a place in the fashion industry?
For the company to march toward new a frontier is not hard to conceive. After all, who would have thought 20 years ago that a computer manufacturer would be at the forefront of the mobile phone industry? Apple has demonstrated that it is more than capable of breaking into new markets with a fashionable product.
The company has drawn the lines between technology and fashion closer, reshaping our perspective on the world of technology. It will continue to do so. The Apple Watch might be seen as a bold and risky attempt to break into the fashion industry, but they are not marketing time…
They are branding lifestyle.
To read the introduction to our blog series ‘tech giants’ please click here.