T he Marketing Missteps of Google Glass

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Nick Cotton Jan 27, 2015


This January, less then three years after it began, Google announced they were closing their Explorer Program and the accompanying version of Google Glass. According to Google, it’s all part of moving forward. They insist the program was a success and the time has come to move on to the next iteration of the product. Oddly, “moving on” involves cutting off the Explorer community (all of whom had to be selected for the privilege of dolling out $1,500 to join) and continuing development away from the public attention Google worked to stoke.

However you spin it, the Google Glass rollout was deeply flawed. Google wanted the world to covet the mere opportunity to try one. Three years of campaigning later, only 10% of people surveyed in the United States reported interest in the product. How does this happen?

The Face of a Product
Co-founder of google, Sergy Brin, is an impressive man. I would love to have Sergy’s resources, intellect and bank account. Not his wardrobe. I look to him for fashion trends the same way I look to Lindsay Lohan as a role model for sobriety. And yet he made a point of being seen wearing the device whenever possible. So much so, that the day he attended a red carpet event without one it became news of the device’s demise.

A CEO signaling confidence in his product is one thing. Becoming the face of the product is quite another – especially when the product you’re selling is worn on your face.

Lost Control of the Message
Keeping access to a select few did wonders for early buzz. Anyone passionate about tech hoped to be lucky enough to be entrusted with the new Google wonder toy. $1,500 didn’t just buy a device, it bought attention. But the lucky few selected to be part of the Google Glass Explorer Program were chosen for their technical feedback, not their skills at public relations. The only vision the world had of people using Google Glass were stories of awkwardness like this and this. Which all resulted in Google trying to teach their loyal Explorers social grace with this.

Function Over Form
Matt Honan wrote a fantastic breakdown of the experience of using Google Glass. Pay close attention to the disparity between the device’s astonishing technical prowess versus the ubiquitous social penalty he paid for wearing it. In countless reviews on Google Glass, the conversation never arrives at “how does it work” because everyone is stopped cold by “would you be willing to wear it.” Bluetooth headsets suffered this kind of social pressure and they only cover your ear.

Is Google Glass really dead?
Sort of… but with the same finality of Google Wave and Buzz, two attempts at social media that drifted off the development shelf only to be cannibalized for use on Google+. The next iteration will look different, act different and launch with a brand new handle.

If I’m very lucky, they’ll call it Monocle and it’ll look perfect when worn with a top hat.

But that feels like a long shot. Given how bad this last launch went, I wouldn’t be surprised if they “rebranded” as Google Glass+. (sigh)

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