The Unfinished Story of how Snap(chat) Spectacles’ is Executing the Best Marketing Campaign in History

Nick Haase
5 min readNov 14, 2016

Snapchat has a magic to them that the rest of the tech world can’t seem wrap their heads around. They continue to build beautiful, thoughtfully designed products, both physical and digital.

For those who aren’t aware, Snap has released Spectacles — a fashionable pair of sunglasses with a camera that seamlessly integrates with Snapchat and uploads the video into a new circular format. Having arguably legitimized the entire vertical mobile video format, they are boldly experimenting with a circular format.

Photo credit:

Snap is not only experimenting with their physical product, but also their (at least inital) distribution method. Snap currently offers their Spectacles exclusively via the Spectacles Bot — a friendly, futuristic vending machine that pops up in a random location that is disclosed on their site the day after a timer counts down: http://www.spectacles.com/map.

While Spectacles themselves are debatably innovative — Snap’s part Willy Wonka Golden Ticket-esque, part Dan Brown, Da Vinci Code thriller launch of Spectacles has started what I’m predicting to be one of the most ingenious marketing campaigns of all time. Say what you will about the product itself (I have a lot of thoughts on their exciting direction), the Spectacles Bot is a work of art and their release methodology thus far is undeniably clever.

The Spectacle Bot’s Debut

First unveiled on Friday, November 11 at Venice Beach, in the shadows of Snapchat’s initial (and now former) beachfront office headquarters, the bot took Los Angeles by storm. After a restocking the machine and finally selling out of inventory, the bot was whisked away — its future location and release date unknown to those outside of Snap’s tightly sealed organization.

In no time at all, several lucky new Spectacles owners began somewhat subtlety sharing their latest new gadgets; and not by simply taking a selfie with the Spectacles, but sharing Snapchat stories with circular video unique to Spectacle owners: a brilliant product tweak that helps remind viewers they are using Snap’s latest gadget.

Furthermore, due to the extreme scarcity of the Spectacles, they naturally showed up on eBay and immediately began fetching more than 10x their sale price of $130.

Less than twenty four hours later, on their product website, when the timer began to count down with the bot’s next drop slated for 7:00am Sunday November 13 at a mysterious, undisclosed location:

The frenzy was on.

Speculation across social media channels began to quicken as Spectacle-seekers and opportunistic hopeful resellers alike began to search for clues as to the secret whereabouts of the next drop.

Snap had begun placing billboards, some with no branding or even wording but just the Spectacles’ distinctive eye logo. Eager fans took these as clues that the Spectacle Bot’s next appearance might be in San Francisco’s Union Square, New York’s Time Square, Miami, Chicago — even some extreme hopefuls holding out for Cleveland, Ohio.

Sunday, November 13th, 7:00 AM Pacific Standard Time.

As Californians we’re just waking up, Snap dropped a massive bomb of a surprise of a location:

As the collective Twitter-verse’s minds were blown by the location’s remote, decidedly non-urban drop point, Snap slowly began to play its hand.

Big Sur, California wasn’t just some random midway point between San Francisco and Los Angeles, but rather yet ANOTHER meaningful place in the history of Snapchat’s product history as this helpful tweet pointed out:

Evan Spiegel didn’t just try the prototype Spectacles in Big Sur for the first time, but when he went back to the office to review the footage, it had such a powerful emotional impact that he knew the team was onto something special.

So from taking us from the doorstep of Snapchat’s ‘humble’ beachfront beginnings, to the actual state park Evan first gave the Spectacles a true test run, Snap is poetically leveraging a soft product launch to build a brand identity around places. Real, tangible places that belong to everyone.

If my theory holds right, the Spectacles journey will head north to Palo Alto — perhaps to a favorite old haunt of Evan and Bobby’s when they first conceived Peekaboo at Stanford. Or perhaps we will learn something new about the young, but fast growing company and take a detour to yet another meaningful destination in Snap’s journey.

I can hardly imagine a more inventive way to bridge the digital and physical bonds a company has with its users and fans. This campaign is more than just a scavenger hunt and is far beyond anything Facebook, Google, Twitter or any tech company has ever done to build physical community.

The Spectacles experience was awesome — I picked up a pair in Big Sur today. I feel a greater bond, a shared experience with the company and all the amazing people who waited in line with me.

As for the glasses themselves? Their success is inconsequential — for they are the tableau, the canvas for which Snapchat has chosen to finally reveal itself to the world.

--

--

Nick Haase

Co-Founder @ MaintainX — Digitizing Paper Procedures for Frontline Teams | Find me on http://linkedin.com/in/nickhaase | #NoKidHungry | @YEC | @MaintainX