Still in its test phase, Google Glass may be dorked to death before it gets the opportunity to take off. Here, marketing players from a range of agencies provide their assessment of Glass’s chances and some suggestions for paving the way to mainstream success.
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.
Marc Andreessen, a partner in the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, said,
”You put it on and you’re like ‘Oh my God, I have the entire Internet in my vision. Where have you been all my life?’ ”
"For paraplegics and quadriplegics, Glass could be a stunningly useful way to get information and interact with it."
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.
Tech pundit Robert Scoble wrote a glowing review about the augmented reality glasses and said, "I will never live a day without them." He then showed off a picture of himself showering while wearing the glasses. Google co-founder Sergey Brin looking cool wearing a pair of Google Glass AR glasses onboard a bus (Click Image To Enlarge)
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 versus everyone else. Nerds actively look to create barriers to protect them from the world, mitigate social engagement, and connect through virtual worlds (thinkWorld 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.
What Tech Guru's Are Saying About Google Glass
I am discounting by about 95% the positive comments made by most of the above technology pundits, expecially some of the above VC's in favor of what other technology pundits are saying:
Marcus Wohlsen, a tech reporter for Wired, on May 2, 2013, gave some hints that Google Glass could end in failure by making these comparisons:
“The Segway. The Bluetooth headset. The pocket protector.”
Rebecca Greenfield of The Atlantic, called the secret photo-taking application a “privacy nightmare,” and she also said:
“The Creepiest Google Glass App Is a Stalker’s Dream.”
Jason Perlow of ZDNet wrote:
“Google Glass: Let the evil commence."
Perlow also noted that in the “Explorer” version of Google Glass that shipped in early May to first generation of users,
"There is no recording LED indicator light on the device, so that one could stealthily record without any indication to the subject that they are being captured on-camera.”
”White Men Wearing Google Glass. This doesn’t make me want a pair.”
Another person simply wrote that Google Glass looks “lame.”
The Google Glass Is Banned List Grows
Privacy and security have become major concerns and as the list of concerned protesters continues to grow, we began to wonder: Where will we be most likely to see this Glass resistance moving forward? This is a short list of businesses and places who will ban Google Glass:
- Movie theaters and concert venues - It's interesting to consider what Glass could do for film piracy and that annoying guy in front of you who waved his phone snapping photos through an entire two-hours concert. But these are two of the most obvious examples of places that traditionally prohibit cameras.
- Public schools - Or nurseries, or playgrounds. Really, anywhere with an influx of children is going to be a potential hotbed of legal headaches.
- Behind the wheel - The West Virginia legislators' attempt to ban Glass while driving will inevitably gain favor within other states, which will likely include many of the country's 39 states and Washington, D.C., where texting while driving is prohibited.
- Hospitals - Hospitals house boatloads of some of our most personal data, including medical records and insurance information. A stray paper or tilted clipboard could easily find its way into a Glass photo.
- Banks and ATMs - Similar to the hospital example, it's not unfathomable to imagine a Glass-clad someone hovering a little too close to your left shoulder to peep a glance at (not to mention a photo of) your credit card.
- Dressing rooms, locker rooms, and other rooms with people who are potentially naked - Think everywhere from department stores to your gym to strip clubs.
I might also add to the above list:
- Law enforcement - The police will absolutely hate Google Glass. They don't want you recording their every move and what they say, because this could be used against them in court.
- Courts rooms - Court rooms often ban photographers from their court rooms, especially high-profile and controversial cases. This is often necessary in order to protect the identity of the jurors and individuals making testimony.
- Military bases - Any military personnel on military bases who enter or work in highly classified and secured areas will definitely be banned from wearing Google Glass.
- Schools and colleges - Google Glass will definitely be banned from the classroom. Instructors will be weary of students who might use Google Glass to teach on tests.
On the other hand, I can definitely see immigration inspectors, airline security, law enforcement and even retailing establishments benefiting from Google Glass, in helping them identify criminals, security risks, people of interest and shoplifters before they commit crimes. Companies that want to protect their valuable intellectual property as a matter of practice will ban Google Glass.
In my opinion, any technology that raises the high level of privacy and security concerns and could lead to consumer litigation potentially in the billions, has a huge PR image and this has the ability to permanently damage or destroy a brand. This is what I see happening with Google Glass. If Google wants to market Google Glass to the masses, they will have to severely limit or block its use in certain situations.
Google needs to be careful that it does not damage its own brand reputation as the company whose motto is: "Don't Be Evil." Google Glass has the potential to turn Google into the feared "Big Brother," that Steve Jobs warned us about when he tried to portray IBM as "Big Brother" in the famous TV commercial. The company has to be very careful how they launch Google Glass. The company has a social responsibility to uphold (its motto) and it should not take us for granted. The small cadre of tech geeks and very early adopters who now love and applaud Google Glass as the next big thing, may later learn to hate if they are not too careful.
I keep hearing that Google Glass represents the next evolution of the social network. Bringing the social network experience into the real world and sharing what we see and do with others. Is this what Google (and Facebook) really wants? God help us if this is where social networks are headed. I don't want that kind of "social media experience" biting me in the butt, and I am sure you don't either. Left to its own accord, without any controls, I believe that Google Glass crosses a line in the sand where our privacy is not only violated, but completely destroyed. We lose our individuality as human beings, and we become an open book to anyone and everyone.
So keep in mind the old adage: "What goes around, comes around."
Courtesy of an article dated May 15, 2013 appearing in Fast Company, an article dated May 4, 2013 appearing in CNN Tech, and an article date May 3, 2013 appearing in The New York Times Bits and an article dated May 15, 2013 appearing in VentureBeat