Tommy Hilfiger has developed a new line of clothing embedded with smart Bluetooth chips that link to a new mobile app and game from the brand, and allow wearers to earn rewards points as they move among different locations, according to an Adweek story and multiple other reports.
Items in the Tommy Jeans XPLORE smart clothing line contain a smart Bluetooth chip from Awear Solutions that connects to Hilfiger's new XPLORE iOS app to track when they wear the clothes. Users can earn reward points just by wearing the clothes, but they can also play a game and earn extra points by following an in-app map and collecting Hilfiger icons at specified locations while wearing the clothes.
Hilfiger will not track individual consumer details through the smart clothes, and buyers of the clothes also have the option of turning off the Bluetooth connection from the embedded chips, according to the reports. The apparel line, including T-shirts, sweatshirts and other items, reportedly ranges in price from $29 to $129.
Is this the new brand landscape that Pokemon Go hath wrought? In particular, Tommy Hilfiger's app and game challenge approach — follow the map and gather up virtual points — seem heavily influenced by Pokemon Go's mobile scavenger hunt format.
According to many of the reports about the XPLORE line and its companion app, Hilfiger sees these developments as an opportunity to turn its own customers into brand ambassadors and increase the brand's marketing power. But it's an app and game with a value propositions for users, too, enabling customers to generate rewards points, bringing it all back to Hilfiger's core business objective — to sell more clothes.
That makes Hilfiger's use of smart chips seem like a more shopper-friendly use of the technology than what L.L. Bean appeared to have in mind earlier this year when it proposed embedding chips in its clothes to gather usage data on the items. That brand later abandoned the idea amid a media backlash and consumer concerns.
Granted, aside from the same general starting point — embedding chips in clothes capable of transmitting data — L.L Bean's and Tommy Hilfiger's efforts don't have much in common at all. L.L. Bean may have had positive intentions in mind, but the lack of a connection to an immediate customer benefit — something like rewards points — might have shaded consumer reaction to it. As a result, the move came off as L.L. Bean wanting to use its customers to feed data more than anything else. Hilfiger instead is offering some clear up-front benefits and encouraging stronger customer engagement with its brand. Also, and key to its plan, it noted that the tracking component could be turned off.
Does that all mean that XPLORE will be a hit? Not necessarily. If these new apparel items are pricier than similar items because of the chip (although early reports suggest this isn't the case), offering rewards points may turn out not to be enough of a benefit. Also, for all the success Pokemon Go achieved early on, the real marketing value of a mobile game to brands that offer it or advertise in it largely remains to be seen. Finally, the idea of a smart chip with connectivity embedded in your sweatshirt may still seem a little creepy, regardless of how many rewards points they get for wearing it.