May 16 2013
A Google Glass culture is a surveillance culture. At any given time anything out in could be potentially recorded and instantly uploaded online to be watched worldwide. A single customer’s positive or negative experience with a brand could not be written off. Everything from ordering a pizza, browsing a store, opening the packaging of a recently purchased snack, reading the signs of a newly opened business, or test driving a car could be watched by others.
This would mean that the cheap brands which value numbers over quality may be caught disappointing (bad customer service, faulty design, ineffective placement), and the brands that take into account every customer’s experience will get potential free advertising. Another major change will be the fact that products can be inscribed with certain codes (similar to the QR codes cellphones read) that will communicate digital data to the lenses of the glasses. This will increase the importance of digital design and copywriting in branding. A product, store or service can not only be “seen” physically but also digitally with the help of clearly created and written information uploaded to the screen of the lenses. In the same manner advertisements may be able to appear on the lenses, advertisements that would originate from a place of business. For example, a bookstore can advertise a coffee or a concert venue can advertise earplugs-this sort of cooperation between brands would favor branding that truly understands customer’s needs, otherwise things could become intrusive. Many of these characteristics are present in successful brands today-it is these brands that will both survive and thrive in the world of tomorrow.
Bring your Brand Visibility back to Reality
Many commentators fear that a Google Glass era will smother the lines between the virtual and the real. What if the opposite is true?
In the Fifties, when television advertisement changed branding, companies began to rely on fantastic, eye-catching demonstrations to describe their brand`s worthiness. For example, Band-Aids had a classic commercial featuring their product stuck to an egg thrown into boiling water to show how tight its grasp could be. Nowadays, video ads veer toward the sheer fantastic: a sip of a refreshing drink on a hot summer day transports a thirsty customer to a waterpark paradise (through the questionable magic of budgeted special effects.) The problem with this is obvious; these brands look good on camera, but disappoint the customer in private. These brands don’t last.
Google Glass, along with the already growing presence of homemade Youtube videos and personal product photos shared on social media sites show a more realistic vision of the brand or product. The brands that will thrive in the gaze of a hundred thousand Google Glasses are those that look and perform well - in reality.
The “Panoptic” Brand
“Panoptic” means something that sees everything at once. A panoptic brand is a brand that is built to be seen in a positive light at all times. In short, an authentic brand that performs well and looks good both in and out of the spotlight.
In the past few years brands have had to deal with some very important cultural and technological changes: brands entered an era of user-generated content, brands entered an era of “surveillance culture.”
“Word-of-Mouth Branding” which is often confined by certain barriers (social, geographic, etc.) now had the entire internet for its romping grounds, and a successful brand has to look good not only in say, a nifty advertisement, but also in thousands of user-uploaded photographs on Facebook, cellphone videos gone viral on Youtube, or in the texts of tons of daily tweets. When you add Google Glass to the equation, a modern brand must always be aware that at any given time multiple eyes might be brand watching.
Panoptic Branding and Design: Some Examples
Domino’s Pizza: Brand Visibility to the Max
Some brands have already openly embraced what some might think of as a sort of customer voyeurism. Domino’s Pizza, for example, has an extremely honest rebranding campaign in which they display their reaction to customer complaints and demonstrate their efforts to fix the problem. Recently they have been experimenting with a store which allows customers to actively watch their individual pizzas being made from start to finish.
Zappos Shoes: Stepping up the Marketing Campaign
Zappos, a shoe retail company, is so committed to quality customer service that they will pay their employees to quit, as to ensure that only the most committed employees stay on board. Zappos strives to have their customer service be perpetually as ideal and engaging as the customer service we view in the most sugar-coated of advertisements. Hundreds of amateur videos featuring Zappos customer service uploaded on Youtube testify to their success in this venture. By ensuring that their service is always impeccable Zappos will never be caught on camera in a bad light.
Warby Parker: A design you can’t take your eyes off
Let’s go full circle. Rumour has it that Warby Parker will be commissioned to help Google Glass adapt a fashionable style. The Warby Parker brand itself is a perfect example of a panoptic brand.
Warby Parker’s We Love our Customers page highlights their efforts to connect directly with the customers, although they are not a traditional “retail” company. Although they mostly function online, they do have a showroom in which customers can meet the employees and talk glasses person-to-person. Warby Parker has every employee work this shift so they can keep a human face in mind when thinking about their customers. Dave Gilboa, co-founder of the company, summarizes his belief in an interview:
“It is also extremely important to us that we have a direct relationship with our customers. All Warby Parker employees, from every department, work retail shifts in the showroom to experience customer behavior firsthand.”
No wonder Google Glass, seeking a human face behind their controversial brand, may be turning to an innovative start-up like Warby Parker to find the right look for their brand!
Take off the Glasses, Look at the Brand
At Drive Branding we believe that a brand should look beautiful, purposeful, valuable and attractive. We believe in a shared vision between clients and their customers. These are the brands that we believe will stand the test of our coming times: a time when a customer’s vision of a brand can be broadcasted as easily as an advertisement.