Fitbit CMO Tim Rosa: 'We know consumers don't want the internet on their wrists'

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Fitbit seems to be focusing more on health, having just announced a partnership with Dexcom, which introduced glucose monitoring on the Ionic smartwatch. What areas of health is Fitbit focused on?

For the last year, we've been trying to pivot the company into health. At CES, we announced a massive partnership with UnitedHealthcare [rewarding users with up to $1,500 in healthcare credits for activities completed on Fitbit devices]. And in late August, we announced our new smartwatch, the Ionic, which is focused on health and fitness. The Dexcom relationship with Ionic is unique. People that have type 2 diabetes have been able to reverse that by wearing their Fitbit and tracking their health fitness and just being much more active and aware of what they are consuming. We are working [with Dexcom] to collaborate on products and software experiences. The goal is to extend [Dexcom capabilities] across all Fitbit devices, which will be able to display Dexcom data. Fitbit devices will also soon be able to detect if a wearer has sleep apnea and make recommendations for what their next step can be.

What is the biggest challenge of communicating about a smartwatch?

We know consumers don't want the internet on their wrist. Fitbit has always been about health and fitness. For us, it is about entering the category in a way that has meaning and purpose for a wide range of consumers. Fitbit is all about scale. A unique thing about Fitbit versus our competitors is we are platform agnostic. Android users represent more than 70% of all mobile users in the world. So being platform agnostic to iOS, Android, and Windows gives us a big strategic advantage. We are able to communicate the benefits of the product, how it's different from what's out there, why it matters, why you should buy it, and how strategic partnerships play a role. We are focused on helping people improve health outcomes and fitness.

See also: Pharma companies turn to wearables to improve R&D

Consumers don't want the internet on their wrist?

Smartwatches didn't really have a purpose when they first came out. First generation smartwatches were focused on putting mobile applications on the watch. Sales weren't the best. We knew the device had to have meaning and purpose and fit into consumers' lives. There are some things a phone is much better for and there are some conveniences that are beneficial to the wrist. We did market research, figured out what wasn't working, and what we thought would work. That's why we focused on Fitbit Ionic and positioned it around health and fitness.

What PR or marketing campaigns are you working on?

We've been doing a ton of education about how we are positioned and how we are differentiating our product. Fitbit just announced a new smart scale, the Aria 2. And we launched our first fitness headphones. We know how important music is to motivating consumers while they are participating in fitness, but a lot of headphones were not made for fitness, easily falling out of people's ears. So we made a fitness-first headphone, called the Fitbit Flyer, just like we are making a fitness-first smartwatch. So we are doing an education campaign about what the product is and why it matters. We also entered into a multi-year partnership with Adidas to roll out a special edition smartwatch and unique fitness experiences. That product comes out next year in the first quarter.

See also: Q&A: Cardiogram's Ballinger on using the Apple Watch to track heart rate

How are you educating people?

We lead with PR. When we announced these products, we created an experiential, two-day event in Montauk, New York. We had 70 journalists attend that. We talked about the tech behind the products, brought in medical experts to talk about the tech, and discussed where we are headed.

We also flew in our fitness ambassadors and professional athletes. They got to wear our new devices and go through training programs, boot camps, as well as participate in bicycling and swimming. On site at the event, we had demo rooms set up, like a sleep room and an app room, where journalists were able to develop their own clock faces and apps for the Ionic.

We have more than 50 million registered users. Our full-on omnichannel marketing machine has allowed us to become as successful as we have been.

Are you trying to reach new demographics?

Historically, Fitbit has been very female friendly. We are trying to lean more into male consumers. [The Ionic] is our first product that is going to skew more male than female. We recently partnered with the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves [in a Fitbit patch deal for three years].

See also: Fitbit hires Walgreens exec as digital health VP

Fitbit's stock plunged more than 60% over the past 12 months due to slowing sales growth and widening losses. How have you communicated with investors in light of this?

That was a challenge. In our earnings report, we said to Wall Street that 2017 is going to be a transition year as we pivoted the company and updated our manufacturing process. We brought design 100% in-house and updated all of our sensors. It is almost like a whole new company. We reorganized the company and tried to position Fitbit for this next phase of growth going beyond fitness and going after the health category. Our stock was up more than 10% after the announcement of Dexcom. We are excited about this new foundation we have created for the company.

How many people work on marketing and comms at Fitbit?

70.

What PR firm do you work with?

FleishmanHillard has been our PR AOR for two years.

This story was first published in PRWeek.


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