What is Snapchat doing with Spectacles, and why should you care?

Earlier this week, Snapchat announced their foray into the world of hardware with the launch of Spectacles and rebranded as Snap Inc. The futuristic video sunglasses are equipped with dual cameras that can record up to 10 seconds of video, then wirelessly upload the footage to the Snapchat app for sharing.

Their decision to launch Spectacles with a shoot by Karl Lagerfeld solidifies their ambition to be a cool, fashionable wearable. More approachable and less dorky than the likes of Google Glass, they look more like a sci-fi version of Ray-Bans.

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View the video here.

So, how could Snapchat’s Spectacles succeed where Glass failed?

They aren’t taking themselves too seriously

The founder of Snapchat, Evan Spiegel told the Wall Street Journal that he sees Snap Inc.’s new product as a toy. His company made Spectacles, he said, “because it’s fun.” The buying power of millennials is well documented and coveted by brands. At US$129.99, compared to the cost of Glass which was around US$1,500, Snapchat’s Spectacles are a realistic gift or something that your average millennial could easily purchase for themselves. It is a very deliberate decision to not market Spectacles as the product of the future. By doing this they are giving their audience permission to be playful and try new ways of capturing moments.

Emphasis on living in the moment, not just recording it

Where Google Glass had a bit of a creepy surveillance vibe to it, Spectacles leverage Snapchat’s brand mission of creating light-hearted, raw snippets of our experiences, created purely for entertainment.

A big drawcard of Spectacles is the fact that they leave your hands free to pat that dog, skateboard, paint, all while capturing the moment rather than interrupting it. They also don’t look overly techy (this may result in fewer robberies than Glass!). The round lenses are also closer to the eyes’ natural field of view, thereby allowing people to get back in the moment. As Spiegel describes in The Wall Street Journal, the phone has become “like a wall in front of your face.” Anytime something noteworthy happens, the first thing people do is pull out their phones rather than experiencing it firsthand. Case in point: at a Beyoncé concert, she told a fan “I’m right in your face baby, you better seize the moment, put that damn camera down”. It will be interesting to see if Snap Inc. launches a limited run of night vision glasses for concerts and the like!

The ultimate brand magnet

Spiegel has been described as “the best product visionary [I’ve] met in my entire life” by Imran Khan, (now Chief Strategy Officer at Snapchat, whom Spiegel lured from Credit Suisse in 2014) and there’s clearly a reason for that. At 26, he has successfully built a global company with offices on three continents and more than 1,000 employees. They have just cracked 3.5 million daily active users, a number which is growing by the second.

The pairing of a wearable with the irresistible nature of fleeting content represents a huge opportunity for brands. As long as a brand is adding value to the users’ Snaps e.g. making them look pretty or making them laugh, consumers have been very open to sharing branded content. Users are spending astonishing amounts of time playing with lenses, even when brands are involved. Snapchat reports that, on average, Snapchatters play with a Sponsored Lens for 20 seconds. With a heavy skew to video, Spectacles will offer brands even more of an opportunity to have a place within their consumers’ worlds.

We know that the Snapchat team are very clever in the way that they have introduced advertising on their platform. By having the same team design the consumer products also design the ad products, they’ve been able to keep a close eye on how people are responding. They are taking a similar approach in how they are launching Spectacles, as Spiegel told the Journal “It’s about us figuring out if it fits into people’s lives and seeing how they like it”. It goes without saying that there will be countless privacy hurdles to tackle, however by keeping such a close eye on consumer reactions, Snap Inc. have a better chance at succeeding here than Google Glass did.

Snapchat has already quietly succeeded in introducing the world to a simplified version of augmented reality. The playfulness of the platform has given them a big step up from every other tech giant trying to play in this space. I’m excited to see whether the ever-growing legions of Snapchat fans embrace this new ‘toy’ when it launches in the back end of 2016. Regardless, Snap Inc. has thrown its’ hat in the wearables ring and I have a feeling this is the beginning of an aggressive diversification strategy in their offering.

This is the first step in augmented reality that seems to have a realistic chance with mass markets, and I’m looking forward to seeing how brands will play in this space!

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