As seen at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this month, brands can and will increasingly tap into an array of wearable and connected technology that provides more detailed information about activity and, in many cases, motivates significant behaviour changes.
From fitness trackers to heart rate monitors, Google Glass to smart watches, the growth of both the number of devices and the market is exponential. This is particularly prevalent in the broad consumer health sector, although some devices such as ‘Hapifork’, a device showcased at CES 2013 that aimed to encourage people to eat more slowly, have not quite caught on.
So what will the advent of wearable technologies mean to the way brands need to act and react?
What brands can learn from this growth is that small steps rather than giant leaps are the name of the game in behaviour change. Brands can use this approach across PR and social media – being the most nimble marketing disciplines – to see real results. They need to act small and think big to make full use of the opportunities.
We’re more intimate, so time to get personal
General health education messages are often ignored as being too preachy. Brands need to make the message personally relevant and if those messages come from real customers rather than the brand, then all the better.
As tracking devices map a personal picture of individual behaviour and offer users the ability to create small self-motivating groups, brands will have to think about being more personal and personable. We expect to see more ‘closed’ VIP communities looking to involve, co-create, innovate and drive advocacy in the real world. Like the Unilever VIP project, which was piloted in 2013, more brands will look to create a more intimate conversation with their most vocal and influential customers. This could be through traditional means or new customised audience apps on Facebook.
Paving the way for ‘10,000 steps per day’
Most know the five-a-day mantra of healthy eating – the amount of fruit and vegetables each person should try to consume – and can probably visualise it. But another widely promoted everyday health target – 10,000 steps a day – has until now been less easy for people to visualise and understand.
This will change in 2014 as apps and connected devices related to digital health, such as those of our client Fitbit, become mainstream. This could trigger a huge growth in a new type of consumer, aware of their every move and tracking the impact and insights that brands bring them.
This provides a major opportunity for brands to be more involved with customers, as more data is available. From insurance companies, to food brands, to local authorities, brands and organisations have a vested interest in keeping consumers fit and healthy. As more people know how many steps they have taken, expect to see more messages about ways to take ‘1,000 of your everyday 10,000’, for example – and to see people starting to take them seriously.
Connect to the story, realise strength in numbers with partners
Consumers are more time-pressured, with more messages bombarding them daily, many from complementary brands with similar stories.
So, it stands to reason that combining forces could be good news for brands.
No organisation can tackle the healthy living challenge alone. The scale and complexity of the issues means that we need to think beyond traditional brand marketing approaches, establishing new and unexpected partnerships with other brands as well as government and interest groups.
Wearable technology brands can create the connection between a brand’s message and consumers’ behaviour, so expect more food, fitness apparel and tracking brands to join forces. The rise of ‘brand banter’ on social media, where brands post on other brands’ channels, is an exciting, low-cost activity that can amplify audience interaction and increase sales potential.
Think ‘social impact’ through consumer involvement
Stunts and iconic visual activities will be big this year, with events such as the FIFA World Cup fuelling this. Ideas and creative will be about sparking interest and impact outside of social and media channels – impact that turns into debate online and offline.
The added element here, of course, is the increasing ability to involve consumers in a way never before possible. How many steps do commuters take each day? How many strides are being taken in the London Marathon? This information can be seen and shared in real time, creating many new and exciting opportunities for sharing, gaming, entertaining and selling.
Small screen entertainment is key
Finally, the continued rise in accessing social content, and in particular video, via mobile and tablet devices brings a great focus to the way brands should be packaging their messages.
Video should be an intrinsic (not bolt-on) part of all PR activities and campaigns.
The rise of disposable content such as Snapchat images, which disappear after a few seconds, alongside platforms like Vine and WhatsApp, means that marketing messages do not need to be epic movies. Making those small steps simple, bold, achievable and visual is what counts.
This year will be a balancing act, from the balance between new and traditional influences to that between young and old consumers, and between the lavish and the inexpensive. The rise in wearable technology and connected devices brings a new dimension to the way brands can engage, involve and ultimately convert.
In 2014, understanding and acting as a personable, intimate brand is more important than ever. Big ideas this year may just be about small steps.