The Failure of Apple Watch, ResearchKit is amazing and PR Stunts are so hot right now

Anyone who has even the most remote access to some form of news outlet, has no doubt seen something relating to Apple’s most recent Keynote. I’ve had the opportunity to watch it (given an unfortunate amount of spare time) and it never ceases to amaze me how boring and unengaging these keynotes are these days. I’m no Apple fan, but I definitely admired the way that Steve Jobs held keynotes and how it’s become such a great announcement platform. Obviously this covered the majority of the news in Marketing and Tech this week, so I’ll look at why I think the iWatch is a backwards step, the real gamechanger from Apple, and in non-Apple news, a great example of how the old PR stunt is still relevant.

“Changing the way we slowly, loudly repeat things over the phone”

I’m going to start with the Apple Watch (I called it “iWatch” before, but Apple has actually stepped away from the i this time). To me, the launch of this product can be given a pretty solid ‘D-‘. Obviously, the history of Apple is of innovation and game-changing platforms, but the new watch missed the mark completely in terms of having any true impact. The basic principle of great, new technologies is that they are seamless, reduce complexity and open up new avenues for innovation. The iPod gave way to the digital music era, the iPhone integrated dozens of devices into a single, hand-held solution, and the Macbook Air showed us that, yes we do still need a disk-drive! But the overwhelming consensus of the watch is: “Who really gives a shit?”. And I totally agree.

Firstly, being seamless. The watch is able to take calls, view and respond to messages, track your fitness and health and the Glance feature allows users to quickly view certain things like weather and heartbeat. Which in a sense is good… but, say you’re standing on a crowded bus and get a call. I’m personally not going to be raising my hand to the opposite ear to hear and then move it to my chin and back when alternating between talking and listening. Plus I’m pretty sure I don’t want everyone else to hear the conversation, as I can assume a speaker will prevent the need to hold it right to my ear. If I get a message I want to be able to read properly sized, legible text. And the TAP, SKETCH and HEARTBEAT communications? If these were even remotely useful, we’d all be using Facebook pokes (and I know most of my friends would initially send me Sketches of dicks before they got bored of it! Not great in a meeting or job interview perhaps?).

Simplicity also, is an issue. The benefit is that you can charge wirelessly on a charge-pad, but I don’t want to have most of the time spent charging my watch for a few hours of continuous use, like my phone. Each. And. Every. Day! When receiving messages, i’ll want to respond in more than emojis or pre-set greetings (I don’t use them unless it’s a work out of office message) and there has never been a message dictation feature unable to send anything but complete gibberish (far more relevant to anyone with an accent. e.g. Australians such as myself, or anyone outside of California!).

Finally, innovation. There are very few features of this watch not already featured in present smart phones anyway! And other wearables and health monitoring devices have been around for a long while already, with clearly superior competing offers! Combine this with a bunch of useless communication tools and clumsy user interface for calling and you have a pretty clear image of being late to the first gen party, as opposed to redefining it.

Let’s also skim over the standard paying $500 for what you already have and completely ignore the $14,000, 18ct Gold version, available for those who wear Kanye fashion, own a cheetah, and like to flaunt their useless wankery over Instagram. And given the fact watches can be an heir-loom type of asset, I can imagine that most kids 20 years from now will wonder why it’s so shit and leave it in their “awww, thanks…” gift drawer.

Really not a triumphant release. A tumbleweed and crickets would have made it more interesting.
Really not a triumphant release. A tumbleweed and crickets would have made it more interesting.

Living longer and prospering! The final piece of the Tricorder puzzle!

When comparing the smart phone to “futuristic”, sci-fi technology, a common comparison is made to the tricorder. A handheld communicator, information hub and medical diagnostic device. Thanks to the Apple’s ResearchKit, the medical diagnostics aspect is now (mostly) a reality. Furthermore, this is possibly the best advancement we’ve all wanted in the field of smart technologies for some time, a potential game changer for the medical research industry. And it’s been made OPEN SOURCE!

While it’s inevitable that IP infringements and copycat technology would have appeared within hours of release, making the development and application systems that this platform uses available, for cross platform developers and medical research professionals, offers great press via altruism and a moral highground. It also opens it up to be universally adopted, much like digital music purchasing became universal. The reason many people aren’t talking about this is because it’s not really targeted towards consumers, but the medical research industry, though in the end, it will be of enourmous benefit to the consumer.

As I said in my previous post Why Science Fiction matters for Marketers, the best technologies work in the background. We’re cognizant of them, but they don’t occupy our front of mind thoughts. Personally, I love this new technology and congratulate Apple for providing a truly innovative and game-changing platform, which will allow our medical researchers greater access to useful data, get people more involved to contribute through gamification (of medical issues, who’d have thunk it!?) and open the door to, potentially, a future of instant detection, pre-emptive treatments and ultimately, greater quality of life. This, to me, is what technology should be about!

Let’s just hope there’s no gold plated medical wearables on the horizon!

*To view the keynote and decide for yourself, go to the official Apple website, because all the YouTube versions are being muted/removed due to copyright issues… seriously? apple.com/watch/

Tell me we don't look like this with our smart phones! Well, Kind of.
It’s really the most logical next step for fully integrating mobile devices 

“It’s a walkoff! It’s a walkoff.”

Finally, there’s been a pretty major absence of truly fun, inventive and attention grabbing PR stunts in recent years, particularly with narrative driven features such as movies or video games. Many of them seem to be relying heavily on the “teaser trailer” to drum up pre-release hype, or even generating digital ‘expanded universe’ content to expand their reach (think Halo 4: Forward unto Dawn) in order to drip-feed select information to hungry audiences!

But, thankfully, Derek Zoolander and so-hot-right-now Hansel were on hand to help close the Maison Valentino show at Paris Fashion Week, using the opportunity to announce and promote the sequel to the classic cameo-fest Zoolander. Clearly the crowd was amazed and delighted to be part of it, scrambling to get their phones out to capture and share the event.

The great thing about a good PR stunt like this is taking two well-known stars like Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, putting them on a hugely, well-known stage in front of well known (or beautiful) people in a spontaneous, unexpected and high impact event, for something which people will instantly recognise. And with the advantage of social media platforms, hashtags and the instant, global reach of the selfie, today’s PR stunts can reach an audience far greater than any time before and can cut through and dominate the social media conversation when done right!

A good example in this impromptu cameo: a very well placed (perhaps too well) Viner has his phone “taken” by Stiller who takes a walking video selfie to the delight of the crowd. The Viner in question, Jerome Jarre, just happens to have 8.2 million followers!

It used to be that PR stunts would take a couple of days to make the media rounds. But in today’s world, we get treated to these things instantly! And I, for one, am pretty hopeful that the best days of the PR stunt are ahead of us, and not behind!

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