MAY 19, 2012 10:00AM

Marketing Lessons Startups Need to Learn from Google’s Project Glass Concept Video

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Neil Patel, co-founder of KISSmetrics and blogger at QuickSprout.com.

You may have seen it by now…Google’s concept video about its new Project Glass. These glasses will do what your smart phone will do only without having to hold anything…you actually see your options at the side of your view.

You can get directions, send and receive texts, make calls, schedule tasks and even share your view with another person.

It’s a really exciting idea…especially if you love technology. But the actual product is easily years out from becoming a reality.

Was Google wise to release an idea so early? And should startups do the same?

Concept videos give you constructive criticism

At this stage Project Glass is nothing but a video…and may not be a reality for a long time. Augmented reality experts point out that there are huge hurdles the Google has to overcome.

So why did Google unveil so early?

It all boils down to the fact that they wanted feedback on the product. Google wanted to learn the good and bad things people had to say about the glasses.

The video currently has gotten over 15 million views which suggests that there is a lot of curiosity in the product…

but not necessarily interested buyers.

It’s just like when Drew Houston released his Dropbox video. There was no coding…just a screen cast of how Dropbox would work.

While Dropbox was certainly fishing for feedback on how to improve its product more importantly it was looking for how many people would adopt and use it.

The Digg community responded:

But more importantly, there were thousands of people who signed up to be notified for the release of the actual product on the first day of the video’s release. And then thousands more after that.

Clearly Drew learned that there was a huge need out there that DropBox could fulfill.

Concept videos gauge interest

You’ll more than likely get in-depth comments from the innovators and early adopters.
The early and late majority will typically just vote up or down on it.

While the input from the first group is critical for building a better product…hearing from the second group is critical to knowing if you are creating a product that will have mass adoption.

But don’t get discouraged if you only hear from the first group during the first round of your prototype video. While keeping costs low, make the suggested changes from the first group to the product and then release a second video.

However, if you don’t hear from the second group the second time around…then you may have a product that nobody wants.

Concept videos build your brand

Another reason for doing a concept video is to make your company look like it’s a company that is on the cutting edge and is doing cool things in secret.

The concept video is a powerful marketing strategy for companies that have long production time tables between products…like cars or iPads.

Apple will release concept videos like this one on the iPad 3 that keep people in anticipation of the real product. Otherwise they may fade into the background and no longer seem like the cool technology company it is.

This is also why Google released their concept video.

Remember, however, that this strategy doesn’t always work with small businesses. It’s a lot more risky for a startup to engage in a concept video if the technology is years out from entering the market.

The startup without an established reputation or brand is better off just building a superior product behind closed doors. A concept video that gets a poor reception could easily sink their reputation.

When should a startup use a concept video?

A concept video is a great idea for a startup when two conditions are met:

  • You can keep costs down – Google’s Project Glass video is a high-quality production that probably cost thousands to produce from the sheer man hours alone. Your video doesn’t have to be that slick. Drew Houston achieved his results with something a whole heck of a lot cheaper.
  • You want feedback from focus group – If you are a startup building a killer product behind closed doors you will definitely at some point want to get feedback from real live users and learn from their suggestions. You can do this with a concept video that you only share in private. This will protect you from premature scrutiny from the public. Make sure though you use testers who you trust and can be confident they won’t leak your product early.

So how do you create a successful concept video? Here are some tips.

Involve the viewers

In my opinion the genius of the Google Glasses concept video was in that it shows you exactly what the product could do for you by putting the viewer into the lead role of the video.

From the start of the video the camera moves around like it is you looking out from these glasses.


This is a great example of allowing someone to demo a product without actually having the product!

Highlight the benefits of the features

The basic purpose of a concept video is to show potential users how its features will make the life of the user better. This means you have to give examples of ways your product can make the user smarter, more efficient or happier.

The DropBox video gave tons of examples on stuff people could store.

But then it went on to give scenarios of how DropBox could be used to solve common storage problems people have.

Isolate the new features

If you have an existing product like the iPad…then how can a concept video help you?

In this case most people will be familiar with the general features of the product. What Apple’s concept video needed to do was show off the new features.

This could be done without any narration as the action communicated clearly what a person could do with new features like connecting two iPads together, a holograph display of movies and an augmented reality keyboard.

Tell a story

Another reason the Google video was a success is that it told a story. It was a simple story of a day in someone’s life.

It showed him eating breakfast, trying to catch the subway, meeting a friend for coffee and playing the ukulele for his girlfriend…and how Google Glasses was involved the whole time.

That narrative…and how seamless Google Glasses fit into that narrative…keeps you glued to the screen!

It’s critical to understand that your product must fit seamlessly into the story. If it feels crammed or out of place then this approach won’t work.

Create a mechanism to capture leads

Finally, if you are going to create a concept video then you need to create a way to capture the leads that you generate, which usually involves driving them to a unique landing page…

This is what I think was Google’s biggest failure. They missed…and are missing…an opportunity to capture something like 14 million possible leads of interest.

If anything by capturing leads with a basic field that allows someone to join a list of updates on Project Glass will help them to see how many potential customers there are, which would give you quantifiable data to determine if it will be a profitable market.

For the startup who doesn’t have the financial resources that a Google has, this is an absolute must. Create a mechanism to capture an email address.

Final thoughts

The concept video is a wonderful marketing tool on some many levels. However, it may not be the best approach for every startup. You need to evaluate your needs, your resources and what you are trying to accomplishing before jumping in with both feet.

However, if and when you do decide, I truly believe that it’s a great way to help you save money and reputation…leading to a killer product in the end!

What other advantages are there to using a concept video?


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