On the heels of Kenneth Cole’s pioneering use of Google Glass for its Mankind fragrance campaign, I have set my sights on turning wearable technology from a niche-marketing tool into a mainstream activity. Joined by industry experts for a panel on wearable technology at Brooklyn’s recent Northside Festival, we had the opportunity to explore the different ways wearable technology impacts the worlds of fashion and design, and what is needed for mainstream adoption.
To become a mainstream marketing tool, wearable tech must first become mainstream itself through mass consumer use. If something like flashing footwear sounds silly now, so did the concept of people obsessively checking their cellphones just a few years ago. But it’s now a social norm, and you don’t even notice it — even in public places like restaurants.
But which kind of clothing, accessory or bodily attachment will be the breakthrough that moves wearable tech from toys and experimental devices to mainstream adoption?
Will it be jewelry, as espoused by one of my fellow panelists on Friday — Logan Munro, co-founder of Ringly, whose rings and other bling flash or vibrate upon arrival of texts, calls or other notifications?
How about charging your phone via a coat or dress lined with solar panels? That’s the concept from designer Pauline Van Dongen, another co-panelist.
Or could it be technology that’s not “worn” at all but actually embedded in your body, as written about recently by Entrepreneur managing editor and panel moderator Jason Fell?
Whatever tech we’ll be wearing when it becomes mainstreamed, Kenneth Cole’s campaign has already set some guidelines for how marketers can use wearable tech successfully:
- Don’t be intrusive. Traditional in your face, interruption-based advertising won’t work with wearable tech.
- Build brand affinity by engaging with consumers for experiential campaigns.
- Create new experiences to encourage consumers to change their habits.
Lauren Nutt Bello, Partner of Ready Set Rocket, wonders what needs to happen to change consumer habits. Do wearables need to be fashionable? Invisible? Or must they just become so necessary that people don’t care what they look like?
Wearable tech as a marketing tool may only be in its infancy, but companies like Kenneth Cole, Ringly and Ready Set Rocket that take those first steps are poised to be leading players once the field reaches maturity.