Garmin’s Scoppen Lin on Developing the World’s First GPS Smartwatch Into a Personal Trainer for Life | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Garmin's Scoppen Lin

Innovators are constantly challenged to differentiate between what is a gimmick and what is truly revolutionary. Since the widespread production of the smartwatch, many seem bewildered by the distinction; companies left and right promising the birth of a never-before-seen technology. And yet with features and quality-of-life functions that you cannot find within your traditional watch, these are all but flourishes; enticing quirks that catch the eye, but in reality are needless additions that you would hardly ever find the use for. 

Garmin stands in a sea of pretenders and hitchhikers, offering a smartwatch that borders on necessity rather than indulgence.

Garmin first set foot in the aviation industry with cutting-edge GPS navigation products in 1989 and later expanded into automotive, marine, and outdoor products. They later on ventured into developing fitness wearables in 2003, with the launch of the world’s first running smartwatch – the Forerunner 201. In commemoration of the 20th year since, they are launching their most powerful Forerunner smartwatches to date, the Forerunner 265 and 965.

Garmin's Forerunner 965
Garmin’s Forerunner 965

The Forerunner 965 is equipped with a titanium bezel, a 1.4-inch AMOLED display, and an immense battery life that lasts up to 23 days in smartwatch mode. It currently holds the record for having the world’s longest battery life for a running watch with an AMOLED display. The watch also uniquely comes equipped with the Stamina and Acute Chronic Workload Ration which helps users track and manage their physical exertion throughout a run.

Garmin's Forerunner 265
Garmin’s Forerunner 265

On the other hand, the Forerunner 265 comes with a Ground Gorilla Glass 4 lens, with an option of a 1.3-inch AMOLED display, featuring a battery life of up to 13 days or a 1.1-inch AMOLED display (on the Forerunner 265S) featuring a battery life of up to 15 days. Forerunner 265 also includes performance monitoring tools from Garmin Firstbeat Analytics like VO2 max, performance condition, training effect, and more.

“From the first time a Garmin engineer awkwardly strapped a GPS device to a wrist, the Forerunner series has evolved into a trusty companion for all runners around the world. We remain committed to achieving our personal best by delivering innovative technological breakthroughs to push users to their personal bests,” shared Scoppen Lin, Assistant General Manager for Garmin Asia. 

Lin sits down with us for an exclusive interview, delving into his journey with Garmin, their growth over the years, and their aspirations for the future of a health and fitness-focused smartwatch. Also joining in the conversation is Missy Yang, Marketing Manager of Garmin Asia.

Scoppen Lin, Assistant General Manager for Garmin Asia
Scoppen Lin, Assistant General Manager for Garmin Asia

You’ve been with Garmin since the year 2000. Can you tell me a little bit about your background?

Scoppen: “I was an engineer when I first joined Garmin in 2000. I started out as a marine software engineer. Garmin was also very good at car navigation so I was also an engineer for their navigation software. I started running around the same year and I tried to use Garmin for it. During that time I had a very strange feeling, I thought to myself: ‘There are so many runners and they just run without wearing anything. We have such good products, but no one knows.’ So I made a proposal to our general manager to convince him to market Garmin for runners. And he told me: ‘Just tell me if you want to, you have two options, shut up, or do it by yourself.’ So I transferred from engineering to marketing. I’m lucky because I have my background in engineering so I can understand the product very well even if I had already jumped off our engineering team for almost 10 years.”

How has the fitness technology industry changed since you first started?

Scoppen: “We realized that the GPS position was not the most important thing anymore. We needed to understand the runner’s needs, that they wanted to learn how to train themselves, and that they also needed to understand what their status was per day, and what kind of training is the best for their condition. So we worked to improve on the training and suggestions our watches provide. A runner’s watch has already become somewhat of a personal trainer on the wrist.”

The Forerunner's rich history, starting from 2003 and all the way to today
The Forerunner’s rich history, starting from 2003 and all the way to today

Who is the Garmin consumer in terms of their lifestyle? You have such a diverse product line, but what is similar throughout it all in terms of the consumer that you serve?

Scoppen: “Just people like me who enjoy the active lifestyle. Actually, originally, I was not the kind to appreciate the outdoors; I preferred playing video games instead. But once I learned how to run and bike, I grew to enjoy that kind of lifestyle a lot more than just staying at home watching TV. I believe in the future, people might pay more and more attention to their health and on their achievements in life. I think this will also be a very good time for us.”

Missy Yang adds, “[Garmin users] are also very data-driven. They want something to prove instead of just by feeling. I believe most of our users are of this type.”

Speaking of Garmin’s values and principles, how do you communicate these with your consumers in your marketing strategies?

Missy Yang shares, “We are always saying that Garmin is the brand that provides you with precise data to help you freely explore your life. You don’t need to worry about your safety and we can also assist you in your training. Through Garmin’s long battery life, you don’t even have to worry about running out of battery during a marathon or during a hike in the mountains. We give our customers that insurance and sense of comfort. Our battery is the strongest in the market and even back at home, you can continue wearing it while you sleep; it will still monitor your heart rate. Precision data and the strong battery life, this is what we bring to our customers.”

Garmin curates an interactive and innovative customer experience

How would you personally define an interactive and innovative customer experience and how does Garmin carry this out in your stores or your events?

Scoppen: “In some brand stores we have a metro meter or a cycling trainer. Over there in the Philippines, in Cebu, we also have the first Garmin brand store to have a golf range inside. This is because we want to encourage people to experience our sport technology inside the brand store itself. And marketing wise of course, we would invite our friends or our users to join us to run together. We have the Garmin Run in so many Asian countries and even diving in others. We want to enjoy sports together rather than just sitting down to talk.”

The Forerunner is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Personally, what are some important characteristics of an effective and efficient running watch for you?

Scoppen: “Every morning when I wake up, I have to see my morning report first thing before going to [the] toilet. How was the quality of my sleep? What is my status based on my Heart Rate Variability (HRV)? What is the best training regimen that my watch recommends?”

“I trust my Forerunner very much and I just follow the instructions that are provided. It’s just like my personal trainer. It knows my body more than anyone else, even more than myself.”

Garmin's Scoppen Lin
Garmin’s Scoppen Lin celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Forerunner

If you had a wish list for the next Forerunner, what are some features you hope will be added? 

Scoppen: “I hope we will have more health monitoring-related functions; those that will help me or even my daughter understand my health status better. This is very useful for me because I do my own health check every year, but that is just for one day. But through the Forerunner, I can have a continuous 24-hour, seven-days-a-week check-up of sorts.”

How does Garmin stay at the forefront of the market? And what do you think separates Garmin from the rest of the competition?

Scoppen: “We are so dedicated to sports and health technology. We have the longest, strongest battery life that are able to catch up with our newer models even if they consume more power. And we also provide lifestyle smart features such as playing music or even in some markets, we also introduced Garmin pay or a transit car feature.”

Missy Yang adds, “Most users know Garmin as a smartwatch brand, but actually, it started from the aviation and marine industry. That is the part that really makes the brand very different and that is also the power that we are trying to communicate with our audience. The watch you have is the culmination of all the technology we have worked on in the aviation and marine industry.”

How would you introduce Garmin to someone who is not familiar with you at all?

Scoppen: “There was a slogan from Garmin: No matter what you want to do, if you want to explore the ocean by boat or the sky by airplane, in Garmin, we have the products for those. No matter if you want to dive in a deep ocean or go to the top of a beautiful mountain, we have the product for that. We are the ones for the adventurous.”

The Season 3 of the Garmin Run club’s Manila leg started last February and will run until May 2023. Garmin welcomes everyone to join the run club every Monday and Thursday at 7 pm held at Toby’s Sports Bonifacio Global City. 

The program is led by three Garmin-accredited Coaches: Precious Que, Jules Aquino, and Jasper Tanhueco.

The Forerunner 965 retails for Php 37,660.00 while the Forerunner 265 is at Php 28,250.00. For more information about Garmin Philippines, visit their website or Facebook page.