Wise words, and yet, in retrospect, they appear to have been smashed by the public’s reaction to Google Glass.
With hindsight the evidence suggests our perception of tech’s influence on behaviour is skewed by survivor bias. We remember the tech that succeeds but quickly forget the tech that fails.
You see great products fail everyday simply because they fail to spark the imagination of the crowd. Or, when they do, it's not the kind of reaction the developers were expecting.
Glass was originally launched as the next generation Go-Pro. Less a heads up display and more a hands free camera phone. Urban HeroWear. The opportunity for the man of action to record every exciting moment of his day.
The message was "you focus on being the hero. Glass will take care of the memories".
The break out moment, was after all, a high risk performance piece played out at a developer conference. The mobile savvy developer reimagined as an urban guerrilla flying into to save the future.
What’s more only the chosen few would be invited to become members of the trendsetting Team Glass. A new kind of hero was going to be monitoring the streets of Gotham. Clearly the game was about to change... and for the better.
The reaction to the product launch was swift. The word "Glasshole" was coined within days and the public openly confronted wearers of this disruptive technology.
Rather than establishing a singularity in the "hivemind” a duality emerged.
The sophistication of Glass (As portrayed in the promotional video) vs. the abrasive and edgy "Glasshole". Disruptive. Revolutionary. Anti-Society. Edgy... Hardly the stuff of mainstream adoption. As niche as Punk Rock. Mohawk, Nose Pins and Glass. The fashion of the malcontent.
Never mind the bollocks... I wear my Glass with pride because I am the exception to the rule.
It was a tale of two tribes.
The target market identified in the marketing plan and the public reality.
The big fail here was the marketing team simply assumed the world was ready for a hands free Go-Pro with mobile smarts. They failed to identify the tribes, and ultimately the tribal leaders, who could not only champion the product as the next generation of HeroWear but also position it as something more than urban NerdWear.
They failed to identify the social proof and the influencers who could champion it.
And here in resides the lesson to be learnt from the "Glasshole" experience.
The reason most tech fails to ignite the imagination is because the purveyors of the technology have failed to identify the social proof. The raison d'être for the technology to exist within the social setting. They spend their days thinking as engineers and not potential customers. That's why they are endlessly surprised with what users do with their technology when it is set free into the wild.
And yet this is the business of marketing. It is the ability to get inside the customer's head. To discover the answer to one simple question: Why would I want one? Not tomorrow. Not the next day, but now. And then deliver that compelling message back to the customer.
It is the development of the social proof. The identifying of the social habits that make the product indispensable and then developing the ignition narrative that invites curiosity, hooks the interest, binds the consumer to the experience... and, yes, ultimately, encourages them to share the experience with others.
All of which is to say, when it comes to making a successful product launch, the challenge is cultural. Not technological.
So in light of the new evidence perhaps we should modify the original statement. Perhaps the reality is "People have been telling me my whole career tech needs to adapt to people. Evidence suggests tech, much like life insurance, a credit card, washing your hair or brushing your teeth, is a habit born out of a social proof”.
In other words: I Do It Because They Do It.