How do the CEOs of wearables startups expect to disrupt the marketing world?

Some of Toronto’s hottest startups are in the business of creating tech products that people will actually wear to improve their lives. But how will that impact the world of advertising and marketing?

Last week FITC: Wearables brought together several leaders in this upstart industry in Toronto. During the conference, I had the opportunity to sit down with three thought leaders in the industry: Karl Martin, CEO and founder of Bionym, Robert Tu, CEO and founder of MeU, and Scott Greenberg, director of developer relations with Thalmic Labs. I asked them that one simple question, and here’s what they had to say.

How will the burgeoning wearables industry impact the world of advertising and marketing?
Karl Martin, CEO of Bionym.
Karl Martin, CEO of Bionym.

“Wearables can be distilled down into a new, more intimate interface to the user. The persistence of sensing and the immediacy of outputs, such as haptic feedback, offer opportunities to create true experiences, and not just pushed content. For advertising and marketing, it’s a new way to engage the user, but it will require a respect for privacy and control to get buy-in from users, otherwise I’d expect to see a backlash that would make wearables a no-go zone for marketers.” – Karl Martin


robert tu is CEO and Founder of MeU
Robert Tu is CEO and Founder of MeU.

“Wearables can impact advertising and marketing in two main areas. One area is data that is being collected by these devices. This data can provide a lot of detail and insight into the habits of consumers such as photos they’ve taken, gestures they’ve made, and activities they partake in. However, with this capability, marketers need to be hyper aware of privacy issues that are already in the forefront with more ‘traditional’ technologies. The discussion around privacy is starting to change from an opt-out model to an opt-in and some companies are already taking an opt-in approach. The other area is creating a unique experience with audiences by taking traditional advertising methods and making them interactive. Wearables such as MeU can help achieve that by displaying interactive games or live tweets on brand ambassador’s t-shirts. Devices like MeU can play a big role in market activation and building brand awareness.” – Robert Tu 

Scott Greenberg, director of developer relations at Thalmic Labs.
Scott Greenberg, director of developer relations at Thalmic Labs.

“I’m not crazy about grouping together all ‘wearables’ since it refers to any tech product you wear. A wristwatch is a wearable, sunglasses and headphones are wearables. We don’t talk about them this way because we don’t think about them this way; all we care about is how they make our lives better. The Myo armband transforms your hand into a controller, letting you manipulate the digital world around you with gestures. Our customers don’t think of it as something they wear, they think of it as something they won’t be able to live without. The degree to which wearables could impact marketing and advertising vary depending on what that specific wearable is capable of. The Myo armband lets you control technology with your hands; the opportunity for increased brand engagement is limitless.” – Scott Greenberg  

Karim Kanji
Karim Kanji
Karim Kanji is the Canadian Director of Social Media Strategy at iNvolved Media. iNvolved Media was purchased by Active International in 2015. Clients include popular food brands, technology brands and other CPG companies. Prior to joining iNvolved Media, Karim led the paid social media strategy for some of Canada's most popular CPG and confectionery brands for Catalyst/GroupM. Karim started in the social media space when he co-founded and was the President of THIRDOCEAN where he led the creation of digital content for companies including Scotiabank, Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, Microsoft, Wild Water Kingdom, Palomino Systems Inc. and Techvibes. Karim has also been recognized as a pioneer in podcasting having interviewed people such as such as federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, former MLSE boss Richard Peddie, TVO's Steve Paikin, Canadian serial angel investor Dr. Boris Wertz, HootSuite founder Ryan Holmes, Mathew Ingram, Mitch Joel from Mirium and many, many others. As a demonstration of thought leadership, Karim led the development and execution of reports discussing how technology and digital media have impacted industries such as retail, education, health, gaming, sports and banking.

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