How do you market wearable tech in 2014?

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In 2012, Google Glass was announced as a pending beta program and the company hopes to have it available to the general market in late 2014. For most of the mass market, information on the program has consisted mainly of controversy surrounding privacy rights. So how do you market wearable tech in the aftermath?

The four basic areas that Glass marketing must address are:

  • Public perception
  • Lack of useful applications
  • Price
  • Availability

The first issue that Google must overcome is the public perception of the technology. When the target audience of your marketing has likely only heard of the technology in reports of users being told not to wear them in public places such as bars, restaurants and movie theaters, as it is often seen as a potential surveillance device.

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However, the true nature of Glass is far different than the implications implied by these reports. Glass is simply an experiment in a consumer Heads Up Display (HUD), allowing hands-free use of things commonly found on most smartphones. The difficulty is figuring out how a consumer can benefit from this product and also eliminating bias that may have stemmed from previous reports on the product. While they may seem like vastly different issues, they share common roots.

The privacy concerns mostly reported are centered around facial recognition and recording. Since most of these applications are available on smartphones, it stands to reason that the basis of concerns are based less on the ability of the device to do these things and more on the hands-free nature of the device. After all, with a smartphone, you can tell when someone is holding up a device that takes a photograph and with Glass you simply need to say a voice command or, in the case of the software application Winky, simply wink to take a picture. While the ability to simply look at a person and see their name and other information available online (such as mutual network/friends, available interests, etc) can be useful, in this day and age most people value what privacy they feel they can hold onto and dislike these features.

Should their marketing team push that this is information already accessible online? Is that enough to quell fears and change viewpoints? Should there be a written etiquette to wearable tech such as Glass or should there be a “Wild West” style free-for-all that settles into unwritten protocols, similar to the advent of the internet?

It’s not easy to arrive at these answers and marketing of such an item requires constant review of how the product is perceived and reacting with immediate shifts and tweaks in the format of marketing. Instead of typical marketing of a brand or product which acts as a scythe through a field of wheat, blazing a path for interested parties to follow, Glass seems to require something more along the lines of being a boat that rides the waves. One wrong move and the entire marketing campaign can crash under a wave of opposition, but successful navigation of the territory can propel you to great heights and distances.

Another area to discuss is the current lack of practical applications. Many supporters of Glass have discussed the use of Glass in medical procedures and how it has been useful not just for those who will learn from the footage recorded but also it has uses for immediate consultation with others during procedures and also for the patient and their family. Imagine having the ability to review X-rays or an MRI without taking your eyes, or hands, off the patient!

These are great, but how does this help the average user? What can Glass do for me?

Most notable are the ability to take images or record video without your hands. One Explorer in the program wore Glass to visit her grandmother’s home country and was able to stream the footage to her bedridden grandmother as if she was there. Hands-free navigation without taking your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel of the car seems like a great mainstream application. The ability to say a command and have Glass reroute you through difficulty traffic as you drive also sounds great. What about trivia? You’re crossing the Mackinac Bridge and with one voice command, you can ask “Okay glass, google: How long is the Mackinac Bridge?” and it will return the answer. Video conferencing can become more personal as you are no longer confined to a desk and can show the conference attendees what you see instead of having them watch you watching them. You can ask Glass to translate for you, making travel to other countries a breeze. Glass can even give you recommendations on where to eat based on what you see. You can have your flight information displayed in the corner as you wait for a flight, immediately alerting you to any changes in flight time without having to seek out the information. These are just some of the things already available and new applications are being developed even now.

But if you’re like me, you’re wondering what Glass can do to help your business.

As a marketer, the ability to market directly to a consumer based on their Glass location and view sounds like a dream, even though I have to admit that as a consumer, it sounds potentially scary. Also, as with any new technology, it brings out a whole new list of marketing implications. A new screen size. A new set of guidelines. A new best practices guide to be written… the list goes on and on. There is a fine line between obtrusive marketing and intuitive marketing and it is too likely that the virtual world overlay of Glass will become similar to a real world billboard. The key seems to be finding a balance that allows you to bridge the physical world with the virtual world in ways that consumers will utilize and appreciate. For a currently expensive piece of technology, would it even be worth it to consumers?

The current price tag for the Google Glass Explorer Program, geared toward developers and actual beta testers, has been a sticking point. Even now $1500 is not exactly cheap for a piece of technology, especially when there hasn’t been much actually developed for it. The program is still technically in a beta status and all reports point to the price being drastically reduced, but even at a smaller price tag, how many people are going to actually make the purchase once it is widely available and, we can assume, affordable?

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