The marketing genius of Google's Glass Explorer program

The Google Glass Explorers' program marketing could be pure marketing genius. Credit: zugaldia via Flickr

It's been a few weeks since Google announced to the privileged few that they had been admitted to the Glass Explorers program, that exclusive club that lets you spend $1,500 for a front row seat to one of the first commercial wearable computers, Google Glass.

Back in February I heard Google was holding a contest for a chance to use the first generation of Google Glass. You had to tweet what you would do if you were chosen to get a Google Glass device. On a whim and nothing more, I sent one.

Turned out that I was one of those lucky people. Lucky that is, depending on if you think putting out that kind of money is a privilege or not. However you look at it, you have to appreciate the marketing genius behind the Glass Explorers program idea.

By choosing the group of first users in this fashion, Google created what Seth Godin calls a tribe right out of the gate. Typically a brand, product, or service has to be let loose in the wild and after a time, if the products are good, a group of passionate users develops and that group becomes the public voice for the brand.

Apple, for example. has a particularly passionate group of followers, people who for whatever reason are willing to camp out on the sidewalk for days before a product release to be one of the first ones to get one. I could never quite understand that mentality. I would much rather waltz into the store after the crowds are gone and buy one if I'm inclined to do so. 

With Glass Explorers, by creating this feeling of exclusivity and naming group members publicly on Twitter, Google created a tribe -- a group of super users hand-picked to be the first ones to use this device.

When I asked why they took this approach, a Google spokesperson told me it was partly because they couldn't possibly anticipate all the uses and they wanted a passionate and committed group of first users to go out and help them learn and discover.

So part of the reasoning for the Glass Explorers program may be just typical Google scientific inquiry. But instead of Google Labs, they have us, the intrepid explorers, the first users, the few, the proud, the willing to spend $1,500 to be part of new technology.

In reality, I'm about to fork over $1,500 for a version 1.0 technology so I can basically act as a beta tester. My wife thinks the proposition is nuts, but the funny thing is I'm inclined to do it, and not because I'm some kind of technology snob that has to have the latest and the greatest gadgets. And not because I feel so special they chose me -- although truth be told when I heard it was mostly celebrities -- and me -- there was a part of me that was flattered to be part of it.

But overall, it's because I feel like Google Glass is the cusp of a real sea change in mobile devices, and I want to see what happens when I put on a wearable computer. This could very likely looking back feel as primitive as my first Motorola brick cell phone does now, but it's a front row seat to history.

As someone who writes about the cutting edge of technology, I would be foolish to let it pass by. Count me in.

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