By Christina Farr and Jennifer Saba
SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK (StartName) – Apple Inc’s Tuesday launch was a marketing extravaganza stuffed full of gadgets, corporate hyperbole and celebrities of every stripe. One thing was missing: the “i” in front of the Watch.
Apple’s prefix has anchored the brand names of generations of products, from its phone to the iPad. But in announcing “the next chapter of Apple’s story” on Tuesday, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook chose to call an apple an apple.
The company that spends hundreds of millions of dollars marketing and advertising its gizmos does not do things without careful deliberation. Some branding experts say Apple chose that foreshortened appellation both to distinguish its first new device in four years and send a message to the public that it was moving into new territory.
Others say the absent alphabet may signify the Watch’s positioning for now – as an accessory and companion to the iPhone, which it requires in order to work, rather than a product that exists on its own merits.
Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
“They are looking down the road,” said Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys, New York- based brand research consultancy. “The watch is going to be an adjunct to a lot of other things that will still have the ‘i’ attached to them. All of this wearable technology stuff really isn’t stand alone.”
It “becomes more of an app attachment than a single product,” Passikoff said.
But the Watch may carry higher stakes for the company and CEO Cook.
Cook, who has labored for years under the shadow of his legendary predecessor Steve Jobs, on Tuesday kept the Watch for last, unveiling the first device to be developed under his tenure with a hint of emotion in his voice. Before the unveiling, he had stressed the historic significance of the Flint Center venue – where a young Jobs unveiled the Macintosh decades ago.
Now, the company that waded into smartphones in 2007 and tablets in 2010 is again venturing into unfamiliar territory, though this time the inherent demand is less than certain. IT research outfit IDC experts predict around 42 million smartwatches will be sold in 2015; Apple sometimes sells that many iPhones in three months.
The financial impact for the company remains unclear, but analysts say the success of the Watch will help restore some shine to its dimming reputation for innovation. In past years, Apple had appeared stuck in an iPhone product cycle, with a new version typically launched in the second half and a more complete redesign only every two years.
That elevates the importance of the timepiece. Marketing chief Phil Schiller once said in court that Apple’s strategy, which spends hundreds of millions of dollars on ads, is to “make the product the biggest and clearest thing in advertising.”
“It is a new era,” said Ellen Leanse, a brand strategist and former senior Apple executive. “It was a highly confident move that signals, pardon the pun, watch us.”
“It would have been trite to call it the iWatch. It would have been looking backwards,” she added. “This could pave a new path for a product family” like the Macintosh.
(Writing by Edwin Chan; Editing by Eric Effron and Lisa Shumaker)