With Hoverboard sales exploding (or the actual boards themselves, according to recent news reports) it has led me to wonder if we might see a related brand go through a metamorphosis. I remember way back around 2000, when I first heard of an invention code-named “Ginger” that was a personal transportation device. It certainly looked cool and the technology allowing a two-wheeled device to self-stabilize was truly cutting-edge. And then it launched as the Segway….
Many people have theorized why Segway never caught on. One thing I have learned over the course of my career in branding is that scientists and engineers often look sneeringly at branding. It can seem so silly and capricious to them. “Surely if it is a good product then people will see that and buy it” is essentially their position. There is an inherent dislike of the idea that something would need to be “sold.” I think, largely, that Segway fell victim to that opinion. Segway could have been revolutionary but instead became the thing that dorks ride. I was on Maui last year and went on a Segway tour. It was tremendous fun, but I found myself rather glad that no one I knew could see me.
I remember Tina Fey referred to Segway on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update: “Scientists have said that Segway will revolutionize the way that people get killed by cars.” I loved that one. Segway has tended to blame authorities in various jurisdictions for Segway’s poor adoption because of laws passed curtailing their use on sidewalks, etc. but what really killed it was leaving the brand perception up to the masses and it didn’t go the way they assumed.
As I have often said, there will always be messages about you, your company, your product. The decision you need to make is whether you will be in charge of the message or someone else will. And the “someone else” may not be as kind as you. (Or perhaps, more benignly, just not aware of the compelling truths about your product.)
So back to Hoverboards. Right now they are the hot gift for Christmas 2015. (Immolation pun intended :) If that stays true and people start riding them in numbers, it would be a great opportunity for Segway to reposition their brand. They have an opportunity to harvest the “cool” of Hoverboards and then burnish it with the superior capabilities of the Segway. (Although some hip redesign would not be out of order…)
If you find yourself on a Segway next year not praying that you won’t be recognized — thank the Hoverboard. It may turn out that you can indeed polish a… nerd.
#segway #hoverboard #polishanerd
— Simon Dixon