This week, Ralph Lauren suddenly emerged with a new sensor-based tech shirt. The “Polo Tech” tees were smartly introduced at the U.S. Open where the power of the Ralph Lauren brand has been at play for years. The company plans to incorporate the technology into more product lines going forward.
The Polo Tech monitors your breath and heart rate, in addition to other biometrics. It also streams the stats to your iPhone or iPad. Ralph Lauren joins the crop of consumer-based brands like Nike, Apple and Samsung as it steps into the health space. In her Fast Company profile of the new product launch, writer Sara Kessler raised some very intriguing questions. Even though we now have the technology to quantify our activity, heart rate, and more, do we really want to? With companies eager and anxious to stay ahead of the curve, how does a brand know if it should follow this rapidly emerging trend or take a different/innovative path?
Without a doubt, all of this new wearable technology is mesmerizing and seductive. (I myself was even lured into purchasing a SkulptAim a few months ago based purely on its ability to measure my muscle quality.) But as more consumer brands move into the health sector and develop devices and assorted quantifiers, it begs the question: if one is generally healthy and living day-to-day with few concerns about his/her well-being, how much does he/she really care about breath rate?
The key to wearable techonology’s future in our daily routines may also lie in information sharing. Programs like Map My Run are successful, not only because they provide useful tools for runners, but because they also create a community—one in which users can share and support each other. Similarly, people dealing with a chronic condition like diabetes or COPD may find it invaluable to monitor their vital signs or medication intake and share it with their doctors. Wearable technology may find its greatest success in niche sectors.
As the rush for health and tech innovation increases--and the marketplace becomes flooded with options--brands will need to move forward carefully and thoughtfully—and not simply follow the herd. Does developing a piece of wearable technology fall in line with your brand’s overarching promise? Will a piece of wearable technology help your brand in anticipating the needs of its consumers? Will a piece of wearable technology help your brand in creating integrated/seamless experiences? If the answers are yes, then join the wearable technology craze. If the answers are no, there may be other, more distinctive, ways for your brand to showcase its ability to innovate.
Nicole Diamant is a Marketing Manager for InterbrandHealth. You can follow her on Twitter @NicoleDiamant.