Apple Watch: Innovation That Starts With Why

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As the Apple Watch approaches public release multiple news outlets are reporting that demand for the heralded device is far outstripping supply. With an estimated 1 Million pre-orders booked on April 10th, the first day of selling, and an expected avalanche of additional orders expected prior to April 24th, the official launch date, Apple’s world-class supply chain will be brought to its knees in trying to fulfill demand.

As difficult as it is for Apple to experience stock outs of watches, this is still the best problem any product company can have.

It’s also worth noting that the Apple Watch has far outsold the original iPhone, which sold 270,000 in it’s first 30 hours, and the original iPad which sold 300,000 in its first day. On it’s first day, the device has also eclipsed all Android Wear device sales of 2014.


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The bigger question that’s worth exploring with this situation is why is the Apple Watch so well received in the first place?

Surprisingly the answer has nothing to do with specs and features. It’s all about why Apple made the Watch to begin with.

In a famous Ted Talk given in 2009, Simon Sinek explained what he called the Golden Circle where he presented the idea that one reason companies like Apple could be so consistently successful is because they did everything in light of a broader purpose or meaning which he called Why. The talk since has achieved over 1M views and is well worth your time if you haven’t seen it already. Check out the embedded video below…

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek

Sinek proposes that the fundamental difference between products made by a company like Motorola, with the Moto 360 for example, is that in Motorola’s case they may have created the Moto 360 with a clearly defined “What” and “How” in mind but their Why for creating it was likely vague or undefined.


For example, Motorola’s “What” could simply be the customer requirements document they created internally that specified everything about the watch. The How is obviously how they plan to sell it. The “Why” though seems a bit less clear. The answer to the question why did Motorola create the Moto 360? is anyone’s guess. Most likely it was about money, market share, competition or some other less-than-inspiring reason.

With the Apple Watch though, at some point during its development, the reason they were creating the device became crystal clear. As Wired explained

Along the way, the Apple team landed upon the Watch’s raison d’être. It came down to this: Your phone is ruining your life…Our phones have become invasive. But what if you could engineer a reverse state of being? What if you could make a device that you wouldn’t—couldn’t—use for hours at a time? What if you could create a device that could filter out all the bullshit and instead only serve you truly important information? You could change modern life. And so after three-plus decades of building devices that grab and hold our attention—the longer the better—Apple has decided that the way forward is to fight back. – Wired

Now there is a reason for these smartwatches to exist. Now there is a purpose for mounting a computer on your wrist. Now there is a noble mission behind interacting with a smart watch. It’s not about money, market share, competition or anything of the sort. It’s about you. It’s about getting your life back. It’s about spending more time in the moment with others rather than being drawn away by the constant distractions so conveniently served up by your smartphone. It’s the “Why.”

Successful brands like Apple recognize that their secret sauce has little to do with intellectual property and everything to do with culture, personality and motives. From the beginning of Apple they’ve espoused the rebellious creed “Think Different.” And to that end their most successful ads showcase their beliefs, not their bevy of products.

And what I find to be the most impressive thing about them is that these beliefs are validated in their actions and are not just some MBA-designed marketing facade.

The reason Apple sold 1M Apple Watches on day one of selling is because they have solidified a core group of customers who buy their products because those customers believe in the same things Apple believes in. They are either misfits and rebels themselves or they aspire to be. And over time Apple has earned the credibility that what they believe is, or in this case will be, manifest in what they do.

Take the ads below as a comparison:


With the Lenovo ad on the left the consumer is left to wonder “Why does it twist, bend, fold and spin?” Who cares? Is there a purpose behind the feature or was that not thought through enough by Lenovo and is left to the user to figure out?

With the ad on the right, an Apple iPad ad, the point is clear: the iPad was designed to empower you to create your own verse in the stanza of world history. A poetic and inspiring message that leaves you to wonder and envision how you could make your mark on the world with the help of an iPad.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, since the Apple Watch was announced I believed it would be a success. That analysis was incomplete though because it focused primarily on what and how the Watch was different and left out the why. Now that the why has been communicated by Apple, it will be up to consumers to determine if Apple lives up to the Watch’s bold objective.

Update: I just found this video on YouTube of an internal meeting at Apple where Steve Jobs introduces for the first time the Think Different ad that is embedded above. In it he gives a fantastic overview in his words of why “the Why” is so important. It’s classic Jobs and definitely worth a watch…

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