The selfie stick proves that absence of coolness and style is no obstacle to market success

Selfie stick

So far, Google Glass has not been the public success that its makers hoped for. The grand media excitement is gone, the early believers are losing their interest, and the device can hardly be witnessed anymore “in the wild” even at top tech hotspots such as San Francisco.

One of the most common points of criticism about Google’s ambitious Augmented Reality (AR) project is that it makes the wearer of Glass look silly. Only people without a sense of style and fashion would be willing to walk around with a head-mounted display, or so the story goes. Indeed, sporting the look of a cyborg is not considered sexy or desirable outside of certain tech and geek circles.

There might be some truth to the conclusion that a lack of coolness and style belongs on the list of obstacles on the way to turn Google Glass into a product desired by the masses. But there is one other recent “gadget” that certainly does not win any coolness awards either for its users, but that does quite well in the market: The selfie stick.

Obviously Google Glass and a selfie stick are not comparable in many aspects, considering that Glass still costs $1500 whereas a selfie stick can be purchased for less than 10 bucks. Also, AR glasses are high-tech. A selfie stick is just a tool to hold a smartphone and to take pictures with it from sophisticated angles. However, from the perspective of an attentive passerby, Glass and selfie sticks share the reality that both can look quite silly when being operated by their owners. But oddly enough, that fact does not prevent the selfie stick from becoming a huge sales hit.

As Bloomberg reports, selfie sticks are flying off the shelves. In many countries, people and tourists taking selfies with this strange helper have become a regular sight. In Thailand, selfie sticks are being sold by walking beach vendors alongside sunglasses (as I could observe some months ago). Disneyland apparently nowadays is “infected with selfie stick families”. Rather unexpectedly, the selfie stick has become a mainstream utility, dubbed by the yellow press “2014’s most controversial gift”.

At this point it is unclear whether the selfie stick will have a long lasting life cycle. That depends on if people’s obsession with selfies will remain as well as on the advances and mass appeal of the drone market. If people could purchase affordable mini-camera drones they might prefer that over the selfie stick. That being said, the sudden success of the slightly bulky and rather nerdy stick allows for one significant conclusion: The absence of style and elegance does not mean that a tech gadget is doomed. With the right price (= cheap) and a clear value proposition (better selfies = more likes, more people in the picture = social proof and credibility), even an ugly “wearable” can totally hit the nerve of the consumers.

(Photo: Flickr/elPadawanCC BY-SA 2.0)

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