Facebook recently announced its highly anticipated wearable sunglasses that can record video from a user’s perspective. Despite many of our legitimately reluctant reactions to this new product, one of Facebook’s decisions in this launch is likely to make it a success where Google Glass failed.
Taking a page from the business school curriculum, Facebook leveraged a effective approach when it launched by partnering with Ray-Ban – a lesson all new product managers would do well to learn.
To better understand this, we must first revisit Google Glass. It was launched in 2011 as a prototype reserved for certain users. In keeping with Google’s approach with the beta launch at the time, these users paid $ 1,500 for the chance to play and test what looked and felt in the future.
Although having been named one of the The magazine of the time best inventions of the year, Google Glass was riddled with problems and an unfinished product. Many have already explained that one of the biggest failures of Google Glass was that it was a classic example of a new technology being rolled out without a clear use case. What were people doing with Google Glass?
Another important aspect of the Google Glass launch was that the product design was done in-house and the marketing was done through a somewhat unintentional PR campaign led by co-founder Sergey Brin, seen wearing them all over the place. From Silicon Valley to Fashion Week. Indeed, Google was riding the wave of its success and coming up with a new toy that seemed inevitable – but had no clear purpose.
Fast forward to the start of this month. Facebook has launched new wearable sunglasses that are immediately and often compared to Google Glass. The question everyone is concerned about (other than whether the person next to me will register me without my permission) is whether the Facebook attempt will play out like Google Glass. However, the decision to partner with the best sunglasses manufacturer Ray-Ban to use one of the recognized brands, the Travel glasses, because the real laptop is likely to make Facebook’s version a success.
While Facebook is more than a decade away from its entrepreneurial beginnings, like many large tech companies, it must necessarily explore the limits of innovation in order to prevent the product or service from rendering its platforms obsolete. This means that many of the product launches that Facebook considers require them to navigate not in risky or unfamiliar situations, but in unknowable situations. What is the difference?
The problem Facebook and many tech futurists face is what many call the Knightian Uncertainty. In 1921, Frank Knight published research which emphasized an important difference between risk and uncertainty. For the big four tech companies, the risk is revenue management to ensure that the market share between Facebook’s ad revenue growth next year continues to exceed that of Google.
Both companies have a track record of revenue growth, so we can use some historical data to make some pretty decent predictions about the future. The key here is that prediction tools have strength and therefore are leveraged in decision making.
Now comparing this situation to the success of Facebook’s Glass is an entirely different situation. What historical documents can we draw from? Will the demand be similar to that of the Apple Watch in the first year? Or will it be rather Zune, Microsoft’s attempt to compete with the iPod? The point is, the demand for this product is unknowable, and there is very little value in predicting in unknowable situations – which we can also call Knight’s uncertainty.
So why will Facebook be more successful? Because if Facebook is no longer a startup, it relied on a key entrepreneurial method to improve its chances. Namely, he leveraged an effective approach to his Facebook Glass launch by partnering with Ray-Ban.
As Google tried to invent the design of its new glasses – using its imagination on what people wanted – Facebook relied on a design that already has some certainties around it. When a business or entrepreneur launches a new product or service, working collaboratively is a critical way to monitor results when predictive tools fail. Execution is an entrepreneurial method that encourages entrepreneurs to take advantage of aspects that are or may be under their control.
To do this, start with who you are, what you know and who you know. Instead of trying to predict what people will like in a pair of glasses and instead of learning for itself how to market those glasses, Facebook has chosen to leverage the know-how of the biggest player in the market.
Facebook stepped into the unknown by finding someone it knew to help it navigate a key uncertainty about its new product. For this reason alone, he has a better chance of success.
Ultimately, new consumer product innovations are incredibly uncertain (not risky) and most will fail. This means that even with Ray-Ban’s partnership, it can easily fail on so many other parameters, but like a good entrepreneur, Facebook has increased its chances by leveraging a key entrepreneurial approach to launching its product – improving its chances of success.