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A Good Look: Inside the Media and Marketing Opportunities of Wearable Tech

January 17, 2014 | By Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director – DCN @michellemanafy

Much of the buzz at CES last week surrounded wearable technology—clothing and accessories that incorporate computer and electronic technologies. Yet given that the C in CES stands for consumer, it isn’t a great surprise that much of the coverage took the form of breathless accounts of the latest toy or snarky critiques of wearable tech aesthetics. CNET.com editor at large Brian Cooley was in attendance and turned a keen eye to the wearable tech on display as he gears up for his New Content Platforms session at next week’s OPA Summit (January 22-24 in Miami, Fl.) – the 12th annual meeting for members of the Online Publishers Association.

Right now, Cooley says there are three main classes of wearable devices that marketers and content companies need to be keeping an eye on: Fitness bands, watches and glasses. To date, Google Glass has been the poster child for this emerging group of products. However Cooley says the most mature area is Fitness Bands and one that presents some very interesting opportunities for marketers. Given that on mobile devices, consumers expect increasingly personalized experiences, wearable tech offers great promise in improving data quality. “In a way,” says Cooley, “the fitness band is the other shoe we’ve been waiting to drop since mobile started.”

As he points out, “Marketers could do a lot with the data these devices gather about users’ lifestyle and behaviors.” The data gathered, says Cooley, would be almost “100 percent pure” as opposed to other forms of information gathering. “Most of the data we have now is somewhere between a good estimation and a lie. Remember that buying athletic shoes doesn’t mean someone is active.”

The opportunity for this level of granular and accurate data would allow for unrivaled content targeting. “Think about it: you could message Nyquil only to those who are sick,” he says. There are, however, still significant hurdles to overcome in tapping into this “tantalizing data,” not the least of which is the fact that device makers he has spoken to “don’t plan to give away their customer information and risk that relationship.”

Cooley also cautions those thinking about tying their messages to wearable devices to approach this highly-personalized experience carefully, noting that “the concern is intrusion, which resonates around all of these products.” While you might be able to access a photo someone took via their Glasses while out drinking with friends—and be tempted to use it to send the wearer an advertisement about their beverage of choice—marketers must balance this with consumers’ privacy concerns.

Cooley encourages content makers that are eying wearable devices to “attack consumers’ needs and keep the products at an arms distance.” While he realizes that this may not sound ideal for marketers, he says that you have to be “even more sensitive to users’ ‘personal space’ than even smartphones. Deliver information, not ‘messages’ and you’ll connect with them.”

Samsung Gear Smartwatch
Samsung Gear Smartwatch

There may also be an opportunity for content companies and marketers to work with device makers to take these products mainstream. “Wearables in general are waiting for a killer app,” says Cooley. “The fitness bands and watches aren’t doing anything too unheard of. The trick is to put it together so that there is a compelling reason to use them. While device makers are good at building the devices, helping them to that next level of relevance is an opportunity for media companies and marketers.”

At the OPA Summit, Cooley will focus on the reality, challenges and genuine opportunities presented by wearable technology. He’ll also provide attendees with users-eye-view videos to help media executives envision the best possible experiences. And following his session, attendees will have an opportunity to get their hands on several wearable devices including the Samsung Gear Smartwatch, Atiz Innovation’s Wellograph Watch and Avegant’s Glyph Headgear.

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