What Dr. Dre Gets that Google Doesn’t

Google Glass will fail. Not because the technology isn’t brilliant, it is, passive computing is the future. No, Google Glass will fail because Google doesn’t understand fashion. Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine did 350 million dollars in revenue in 2011 selling headphones, historically a commodity product, by turning them into a fashion statement.

The thing is, Beats are shitty headphones. They’re overly bassy, clunky and expensive. But, Dre doesn’t sell Beats as headphones, he markets them as a fashion accessory. People buy Beats because they’re hip and they’re what their friends have.

Fashion companies don’t sell better products, they sell emotion. No one buys Beats because they want to listen to music, they can buy something for half the price if they want that. They buy Beats because they’re in vogue, they’re hip, and they make them feel cool. Selling fashion is all about selling a feeling instead of a utility.

Google Glass is being sold as a utility. It’s been all about features instead of images and feelings. Especially with a product so central to our appearance, Google needs to spend more time thinking about how they’re going to make Glass cool. Put on Glass and you feel like the nerdiest person in the room. Google needs to change that, quickly.

Fashion touches everything we do. Think about why people use services like Twitter and Tumblr or how you decided where to go for dinner. As humans, we instinctively follow the herd, we aim to fit in. Being an individual is scary, fitting in is safe. We like to use products and buy things that help us fit in. Right now, Glass alienates us. I don’t know how to fix that but, I bet Dre has some ideas.

Not thinking about fashion can be deadly. Look at the Segway or AltaVista, uncool failed products with brilliant technology. If you’re building a product today, you can’t afford to just focus on the technology.

Thanks to Ryan, Quinten, Nate, Adii, Jesse and Zach for sharing feedback on the early draft of this in our Brain Trust.


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