Google’s much-hyped wearable computer, Google Glass, has been touted by the tech elite as one of the leaps forward of recent times, but those same elites may hobble mainstream adoption of the device.
While privacy concerns have blossomed (the device may be on its way to being banned at a number of locations), it may comfort those worried that we are all about to become spies for Google that the early adopters of Google Glass are helping to give it an image problem it might not recover from.
The futuristic-looking headset can augment our everyday reality by putting data in our field of vision as well as allowing us to take pictures, and translating the spoken word on the move. But unfortunately, it also appears to have unintended contraceptive powers, as illustrated by this Tumblr featuring members of its decidedly unhip core fanbase.
It’s all very well having wearable technology that lets you livestream yourself hang gliding. But if it has all the sex appeal of orthodontic headgear, it’s unlikely to catch on. Google’s Glass Explorer program has put Google Glass in the hands and on the heads of developers and tech pundits who Google has selected to test it and have paid $1,500. Google chief executive Larry Page has indicated that the product won’t be in stores for about another year, by which time it may be hard to separate it from its association with tech fanatics.
Arguably, success in wearable technology hinges on making people look and feel good as much as providing a functional service. Developers might be happy to fork vast sums for the privilege of being a Google Glass owner, but when the product goes to mass market, fashion, or at least some sort of coolness and covetability will be as critical as functionality.
With this in mind, we asked five marketing experts: How would you position Google Glass to make sure it achieves mainstream success?
Jinal Shah, digital strategy director, JWT New York
Google is embracing its influencers. Make no mistake though—they aren’t just going after the nerds. They are strategic in who they’ve invited to their Glass Explorers program, an influencer program that allows a handpicked group to use the first generation of Google Glass. Google has carefully curated a group of people who sit at the intersection of nerd and celebrity. For example, tech celebrity Soraya Darabi, among others. People like her not only bring their passion for technology but also their massive audiences (500K+ followers in the case of Soraya) into the conversation.
There’s incremental innovation and there’s wow-your-pants-off innovation. Google Glass is in the latter category. We tried it on last week at Google and it was pretty amazing. Mainstream success will happen as it expands the breadth of its audience and also as its simplifies its technology. What we’ll end up with in a few years is just a tiny camera that we’ll be able to attach to any eyewear. To the broader point, wearable technology is the future. Making it as nerdy as possible at the outset is a smart strategic move to get those who will engage most with the glasses to develop their capabilities and advance them to a place of general adoption. It should be no surprise that Google has already developed a partnership with Warby Parker. The aesthetic will change over time, and this will be one of the many norms of wearable tech.
The Google Glass initial approach has focused on driving exclusivity in select communities. And they’ve nailed it. In the next stage, I’d focus on creating desire by introducing a library of plain interesting to bizarre applications of Glass. Think government, music, Hollywood, retail partnerships—maybe even an episode of Family Guy with Stewie touting Glass.
Jonah Disend, CEO and Founder of Redscout
When we look at the challenge of extending Google Glasses out of nerdom, we believe that the challenge is first, one of execution and second, one of positioning and targeting.
First, in terms of execution, Google Glasses inherently plays in two worlds—fashion and technology—and they haven’t created "cool kid" lust in either area. It is neither an incredible fashion accessory that you would want to wear, nor is it a beautiful or obviously useful gadget that you would want to own.
Second, in terms of positioning and targeting, today Google Glasses is seen as a barrier to social engagement as opposed to an enabler. While it may make your world more exciting and dynamic (as the promotional video might suggest), it does not currently enhance socialization nor have they shown how the value of the glasses increases with additional users (there is currently no clear Network Effect).
Now for our gross generalization about nerds v.ersus everyone else. Nerds actively look to create barriers to protect them from the world, mitigate social engagement, and connect through virtual worlds (think World of Warcraft). In this context, Google Glasses are the ultimate tool for nerds to add a layer of protection between them and others and potentially seal the fate of Google Glasses as something that only the geekiest of the geeks would ever want to wear (or even own).
Lloyd Salmons, Director of Digital, Saatchi & Saatchi London
I love Google. It gives me convenient access to a world of information and that’s something I want. I don’t love their glasses, because they don’t give me what I want. What I want is my glasses. If you’ve ever chosen a pair of glasses you’ll know how long it takes, how many opinions you seek, how many photos you’ve texted and images of celebrities you’ve looked at, be they fashion, sport or sunglasses. What I want is the Google I love, in the glasses I love. I want Google in my glasses.
Open APIs, products as platforms, and cocreation are the norm for tech companies. There is no way Apple or Android could have brought the level of innovation needed to create so many apps personalized to individual needs. Just because Google Glass is a physical product doesn’t mean Google should change the approach to creating the range of glasses needed to facilitate individual tastes.
To facilitate this, we’d build a platform allowing us to work with a range of individuals and the people who make their glasses. These people would range from well-known celebrities in fashion and sport, to everyday style leaders. The content generated across the journey from inception, build, and trial to launch would provide both broadcast content and ways to engage.
Google in Bradley Wiggins’s glasses: We follow the journey of Bradley and his glasses climaxing at the start of the Tour de France. Google in Elton John’s glasses: No one has more glasses than Elton John; he’s given us a hundred of his best to create a range of Google glasses and we’re going to find the perfect person for each of them. You get the picture. Google in P.Diddy’s glasses. Google in Sven Göran Eriksson’s glasses. Google in Victoria Beckham’s sunglasses.
If you try on anyone else’s glasses, you look like a nerd; that’s just a law of the universe. If you don’t believe me, try it. What I need is Google in my glasses.
Brian Carley, SVP, Executive Creative Director, Rokkan
It’s a challenge, specifically because of the stigma that was quickly attached to them. Putting aside all flaws in its physical appearance, it would be ideal to tap into how people would realistically use them day to day. Very few people are going be wearing them ALL the time, but there are times when it would be useful to have a device such as this and also have complete use of your hands. We all assume that our mobile devices have no boundaries, but there are instances when we are apprehensive about having them on our person. I think that utilizing those moments is the sweet spot for this product. It’s a more useful Go-Pro and those are wildly popular within their specific usage, which is quite broad. There’s no real need for these beyond enjoyment, and so it would be wise to illustrate the truly hands-free experiences that surround the product beyond the dorkiness we’ve experienced already. At least they’re not as cumbersome as a Segway.
Bud Caddell, SVP, Director of Invention and Digital Strategy, Deutsch LA
Yes, white middle-aged men love Google Glass. Is it a problem? Of course not. Wearable tech has hardly fallen down Geoffrey Moore’s chasm. We’re seeing early adoption, and in tech (if we’re not counting Pinterest), white men from the Valley with disposable income tend to be first in, first out. And that didn’t stop iPads, laptops, or the mobile phone from reaching mass adoption. Yes, Robert Scoble in the shower is frightening. But take a breath. Google has already tapped Warby Parker, who I personally trust in putting things on my face, and I think Google Glass (in one iteration or another) is here to stay.
[Base Image: Heiko Kiera via Shutterstock]