Google's Amazing Image Strategy with Google Glass

By Rob Enderle April 16, 2014

You would think that a company being pounded for privacy issues and facing a competitive marketing effort that made fun of those issues (Scroogled) would pull back and circle the wagons at least with regard to privacy.  But Google isn’t built that way. They sat back and figured the way to get people to stop accusing them of a crime was to implicate their fan base and making those fans pay $1,500 for the privilege of buying a product that makes Google’s past spying seem trivial by comparison.   It seems folks aren’t all that upset if Google is spying as long as they are doing the spying, go figure?

Glasshole Club

The name fondly applied to Google Glass users reflects the growing gestalt of feelings that have been shifting from Google and its employees to Google Glass users.   This has been particularly effective in San Francisco where people outraged about the rise of property costs as a result of the influx of tech workers have moved to attacking tech employees of late.   But by simply giving a bunch of folks the opportunity to be scape goats for Google, they have painted targets on the backs of folks who have become the physical representation of the firm.  Kind of like if McDonalds charged folks $1,500 to dress up as Ronald McDonald and then take their McMuffins to eat in front of Taco Bell.   Not only wouldn’t what resulted be covered under employment insurance (the Taco Bell employees are likely not to have a sense of humor) but the poor idiots- er- loyal customers, would take all the heat.   

People here in the States are particularly smart when it comes to purchases like this.  It used to be that folks testing Alpha products were paid, now, under Google, you pay for the privilege and become the visible representation of a firm that a lot of folks don’t really like that much.   And to do this on Tax day in the U.S. was particularly brilliant because folks don’t know what to do with their Tax refunds so why not push them to your product?   Granted there are signs folks may be thinking that paying for something you are typically paid for might be a bad deal but who really listens to the voice of reason anyway? 


Google got in trouble for scanning folks internal networks and got chased with pitchforks when they drove around taking pictures of houses.   They even bought a Drone company after their Chairman whined that drones might invade his privacy.  Though I have to admit having the Chairman of Google getting concerned about privacy was a bit of a hoot.   But solving the problem by becoming a Drone provider makes so much more sense because you can design the software so it doesn’t tape your house.   Google has brilliantly turned hypocrisy into an art form.  And that too, is kind of brilliant.  

But the best move is putting cameras on a lot of folk’s heads - because if they are invading the privacy of others those others don’t seem to be getting upset with Google but with Google glass users.   What a brilliant way to dodge a bullet!!  Robert Scoble thinks this will kill Google Glass, well that’s one opinion. 

In effect, they implicate folks in the privacy crime so those folks won’t complain and restrict others from responding because they don’t want to put friends or family in jail.   Google makes a ton of money from a funny embarrassing picture on YouTube and avoids the related liability.   That’s just brilliant!  Think about it, are you going to complain about privacy if it is your spouse, child, parent, or friend that is wearing this product?  Of course not and Google just makes the tool, they don’t dictate how it is to be used (though they do give some pretty strong hints).  

Wrapping Up:  Fascinating Strategy

The old saying is that if faced with a life of lemons, make lemonade.  Google, when faced with a massive backlash on privacy, doubled down and got people to pay for the right to supply Google with candid videos and made them targets for Google’s behavior.   They didn’t need a Ronald McDonald. They charged their customers to play that role.    Now that is simply brilliant.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group

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