Think of the Apple Watch as a Tesla for your wrist.
The company’s new smartwatch isn’t just another toy gadget for geeks. At least in the early going, the Apple Watch appears to be synced to something else: status.
Consider the recent photos Beyonce released of her jet-setting to Coachella.
The pop star was decked out in denim shorts, a rocker tank top and a headwrap flourished with exotic feathers. But the ensemble’s showstopper was dangling from her arm.
The diva flashed a specially made 18-karat gold link Apple Watch estimated to be worth more than $17,000. And forget about owning one; it’s not for sale.
It’s a new tack for Apple Inc., the Cupertino, Calif., tech giant that focused on functionality and style to sell nearly half a billion iPhones. Before its first deliveries to ordinary customers Friday, Apple has been getting its digital timepiece into the hands of as many A-list tastemakers as possible.
Experts say the nature of the Apple Watch is forcing the company to market more aggressively. For one, Apple is charged with creating a consumer category largely from scratch. At least with the first iPhone, a market for smartphones already existed.
Then there’s the nagging question about whether anyone needs an Apple Watch in the first place, especially if you don’t consider pulling a smartphone out of your pocket or purse an inconvenience.
That’s why Apple’s product rollout is different this time too. Rather than appealing to the masses — and the long lines that ensue — the watch can be seen only by appointment at Apple’s retail stores and at a handful of luxury boutiques across the country.
Enlisting the help of influential stars and style icons builds awareness where there was none — and it’s a stab at adding cachet to a product that needs to transcend the gizmo world and seize broad appeal.
That’s made easier when you have the likes of Pharrell Williams peddling Apple watches to young audiences on the hit show “The Voice” and on his Instagram account.
“They’re breaking new ground with a smartwatch, which has always been a bit nerdy. They have to position it away from the fan boys to get a wider market,” said Steven Addis, chief executive of Berkeley creative agency Addis.
The early marketing blitz appears to be working. Apple is estimated to have already pre-sold 2 million watches, according to research at FBR Capital Markets. The firm also increased its estimate for the number of Apple Watches shipped this year to 20 million from 17 million.
If Apple’s celebrity, status-conscious marketing sounds familiar, look no further than the company’s acquisition of Beats Electronics last year for $3 billion.