Snapchat now has 100 million daily active users, making it one of the fastest growing social platforms outside of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. But it’s far more than the ephemeral messaging service of its 2011 start-up days. For starters, it’s recently rebranded as simply 'Snap' and it’s making a play into the offline world with its Spectacles.

As you’d probably expect, the Snap Spectacles are a pair of glasses that allow you to record 10 second snippets of video content as you see it. These video clips are then sent to your Android or iOS Snap app, where you can edit and upload them. Initially thought to be just a quirky concept design, Snapchat Spectacles proved to be an unexpected hit when they were first launched in the US.

And now they’ve made their way over to the UK.

Well, kind of.

The Spectacles are actually only available through one vending machine called ‘the Snapbot’, located near the London Eye. So if you want to get your hands on one, you better be prepared to make the journey.

You’d be forgiven for thinking the idea sounds really similar to Google Glass, but there are a few key differences. For starters, they look better, more like regular glasses, and are designed to appeal to Snap’s young demographic. And, crucially, there’s less concern about privacy compared to Google’s offering thanks to an outward-facing light that comes on when you’re recording.

Understanding who will be using them

So the big question is, will their use ever become mainstream? Whilst it’s still too early to tell, there’s certainly a lot of potential for Snap’s already very engaged user base to get even more involved in content creation. There is certainly a lot of buzz around them, partly down to Snap’s smart strategy to build up anticipation through limiting the amount of hardware available.

The general consensus among most Snapchat users here at Hirola is that the glasses will appeal to a certain segment of the app’s current audience, namely serious content creators and those who are already considered online influencers, such as musicians or performers, would benefit from the ‘always-on’ nature of the glasses.

Exploring the opportunity for brands and agencies

But just because Snapchat Spectacles haven’t drummed up huge mainstream interest just yet - and may only appeal to a few really dedicated users - it’s still important for brands and agencies to look at how they might use them in the future.

Crucially, brands don’t have to rely on mass usership to make them a viable tool in their marketing arsenal. The immersive, exclusive and ‘behind-the-scenes’ nature of the specs means brands can pick them up and start using them first.

For example, Costa Coffee was one of the first UK brands to start using Snap Spectacles before they were released to the public. Rather than giving people an opportunity to discover things through the glasses, the brand used them to give customers a tour behind-the-scenes.

And that seems to be the trend - adopting the glasses as a way of providing people with a better insight into a business.

In the US, Hyatt Hotels asked some of its employees to use the Snapchat Spectacles and give people a view of the world through their eyes. Similarly, L’Oréal Paris used Snapchat Spectacles to give viewers a sneak-peek at what it’s like to attend the Golden Globes.

Marriott Hotels went with a different approach and decided to give online influencers the Snapchat Specs to record their experiences and give fans a better insight into their world.

It’s hard to measure the extent to which any of these initial uses were a success, (as with many fledgeling marketing techniques), but they show how these brands are forward-thinking and willing to take risks to engage with their audiences.

In this way, the interesting point is not so much how many people are buying the Snapchat Spectacles, but looking at how they can be used by brands or influencers to provide Snap users with a better experience.

Approaching new tech with caution

Of course, it can be tempting to jump in feet first when a new platform, app or piece of tech launches.

But the most important thing to consider is whether it’s right for your audience. Look at who you want to reach and assess whether this will do the trick, or fall flat.

Snap appeals to people of all ages but it’s generally driven by a younger audience who are savvy to the presence of branded or sponsored content. So you need to have a reason to engage with that audience and provide them with added value, as well as taking care to develop a tone of voice and approach that feels authentic to the platform.

It’s still early days to decide whether Snapchat Spectacles could be a great consumer tool, a great storytelling tool for brands, or both. But regardless of whether you end up using them as part of a communications strategy or not, it’s important to stay ahead of trends and keep up-to-date with how platforms evolve. Because even if you think smart glasses are ridiculous, it’s less about them and more about how they build on the very popular, very cool and very lucrative model that is SnapChat.


By Jade Warrington, managing director at Hirola Group

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