The marketing genius behind Snap’s new Spectacles


We all want a pair.

One week ago, I had virtually zero interest in owning a pair of Snap Spectacles, the company’s new video recording sunglasses.

On Saturday, I contemplated the six-hour drive from San Francisco to LA to buy a pair out of a vending machine. What a difference a week can make.

The rollout of Spectacles has been, well, a spectacle. Everywhere Snap drops a Snapbot, the big yellow vending machines that serve as temporary storefronts for the glasses, crowds line up, dozens of people deep, and spend their hours waiting in line posting and tweeting about how excited they are to get their hands on some Spectacles.

It’s been a touch of marketing genius.

Snap isn’t going to make much money selling smart glasses one vending machine-full at a time. But that’s not the point. Instead, what the company has done is create the kind of buzz and excitement around a product — and thus the Snap brand, which is prepping for an IPO — that we haven’t seen in a long, long time.

How, exactly, did that happen?

  • Snapchat did a great job of setting expectations. From the get-go, Snap positioned its new glasses as a “toy,” which immediately differentiated Spectacles from Google Glass, the search giant’s failed smart glasses that made everyone question the future of wearables altogether. Spectacles are cool, dude. They’re for filming your friends partying at the football game, not for answering email. Who cares if there isn’t a killer use case? Toys don’t need one. Even Robert Scoble wearing Spectacles in the shower won’t kill Snap’s momentum. (Probably …)
  • Snap has done a great job creating perceived demand. After Snap drops a vending machine somewhere, it’s followed shortly by photos and videos of long lines, and eventually a bunch of sad customers once the machine sells out. But that has made Spectacles the hottest product in town — the $130 glasses are selling for thousands on eBay. Snap is likely selling just dozens of glasses per day, but it feels like it’s cleaning out the warehouse.
  • Snap’s rollout strategy is generating a lot of free press, both from users in line (see above) and more traditional media outlets. Instead of just one press cycle — the first day Spectacles went on sale — the press has covered each and every new Snapbot location. Users are eager to buy the glasses, and the press is happy to point them in the right direction in exchange for a few clicks.

The reality is that Spectacles aren’t going to be big business for Snap, at least not anytime soon. The company wouldn’t sell them out of vending machines if it was trying to make money here.

But Spectacles are giving Snap a new wave of momentum just before it plans to IPO — and the idea that it could sell a lot of glasses has been planted in everyone’s mind. And that feeling isn’t ephemeral.

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