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The Apple watch Brand Boom: the tech device has built tons of buzz, but can marketers make it tick?

Unlocking the door of a hotel room with the flick of a wrist will become the new reality for Starwood Hotels and Resorts this week. The chain is among more than 40 brands--which also include BMW, Target, Fandango, The New York Times and Expedia--working closely with Apple to design apps in the run-up to the muchhyped Apple Watch launch expected on April 24.

The device has been heralded as the next big marketing platform, leading brands to busily retool their apps to fit wrist-strapped screens. But in contrast to the years marketers have spent developing their iPhone apps, time is not on their side when it comes to the Apple Watch. Technology is moving faster--and so must brands. "Do I think most marketers are ready? No," said Mike McGuire, vp of research at Gartner Research. "It is going to be about really having to nail this early on."

Through its app, Starwood--with 1,200 properties worldwide under brands such as Sheraton, Westin and W Hotels--can remotely check in guests and unlock guest rooms. It can also ping travelers with information like the cost of a taxi to a hotel. Come Friday, the technology will be rolled out at 150 Starwood locations, with plans for expanding it to all destinations.

Analysts expect the hotelier to invest $7 million to $8 million into the technology this year alone, $20 million to $40 million in the long run.

Stephen Gates, Starwood vp and digital creative director, global brand design, explained that developing the app for Apple Watch required heavier lifting than for the iPhone.

"It can look deceptively simple, but to go through and develop it for our nine different brands [requires] a lot of design work and functionality under the hood," he said.

As for other brands, Target's Apple Watch app uses voice and location technology to enable consumers to make shopping lists, then find products once they are in the store. Fandango's app features a countdown to movie showtimes, BMW's syncs with electric cars, and the American Airlines app reports flight updates in real time.

Other brands, including Viper, a maker of car alarms, are holdingback on their own apps for the time being. As Michael Maginnis, president of Viper's agency MJD Interactive, explained: "A lot of the feedback we're getting so far is that it takes [consumers] a couple days to figure out why they even like the watch."

Caption: Target: Make your shopping list, find products in store

Caption: BMW: Syncs with electric cars

Caption: American Airlines: Arrival and departure updates in real time

Caption: Fandango: Countdown to movie showtimes

Caption: Starwood: Checks you in, unlocks your guest room

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Title Annotation:THE LEAD
Author:Johnson, Lauren
Publication:ADWEEK
Date:Apr 20, 2015
Words:440
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