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The lines between fashion and technology are becoming increasingly blurred. This has opened new markets and new opportunities, from smart watches to heat-managing jackets to GPS enabled shoes. One pundit-friendly, but as yet untapped market, remains right in front of our faces: smart eyewear. Ray-Ban thinks they might be the one to finally crack it, in partnership with Facebook.
While previous innovations in this space have generally been geared more toward technology rather than fashion, as the world’s most iconic sunglasses manufacturer Ray-Ban could be the tonic needed to win over the mainstream. Certainly, the brand has been a pioneer before, introducing mirrored lenses to the masses in the 1940’s. But would people be willing to take an even bigger leap now, particularly given privacy concerns and the significant costs involved?
To address these questions, we used our 3Cs methodology to predict the product’s in-market potential:
Sunglasses which can also take videos and photos is certainly a novel proposition. However, while many were receptive to how easy they made capturing unexpected moments, others expressed reservations about them infringing on the privacy of unassuming bystanders — particularly given the involvement of Facebook, who have faced ongoing scrutiny around their consumer privacy failings (enough to warrant a corporate name change to Meta).
Despite fitting Stories into iconic Ray-Ban frames such as the Wayfarer, people couldn’t fuse the technological leap with their existing perceptions of Ray-Ban. Ray-Ban’s ubiquity proved somewhat of a hinderance in this respect, with the brand’s understated ability to work just as well in Hollywood as everyday life (and every occasion in-between) clashing with the futuristic tech offered by Stories. While the iconic shape of Ray-Ban Wayfarers meant they were still easily recognizable, in a positioning respect they were a significant departure from what people expected of the brand.
The concept was considered innovative and modern – particularly amongst the younger cohort, who found them more relevant than their older counterparts. While the “two-in-one” proposition meant they were perceived to be new and different to what’s currently available, they didn’t deliver strongly on an actual consumer need. The added benefit of convenience (compared to using a smartphone) wasn’t enough to make up for their hefty price tag and concerns around privacy.
Henry Ford famously said “if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” (rather than a motor vehicle), implying that innovation needs to outpace consumers’ imagination.
However, even in the serendipitous use cases featured in the launch video for Ray-Ban Stories, could any of the occasions not have been addressed by the one device nearly everyone in the world doesn’t go anywhere without?
Do they provide any significant emotional advantage over that offered by each product individually?
While certainly breaking the mold, Ray-Ban Stories don’t offer the smoking-gun necessary — at this stage — to warrant widespread adoption. Perhaps that was to be expected, however, as Ray-Ban and Facebook shore up their position and build the necessary credibility and expertise before iterating and launching again with an evolved offer — preparing for the day when the technological upside warrants the investment.
This is a self-funded case study using our Innovation Testing solution.