Will World-Class Designer Ivy Ross Save Google Glass?

Google hired Ivy Ross, a renowned fashion executive, to lead its Glass team. Will she be able to alter public perception and convince everyone that Glass is more than a toy for tech geeks?

May 22, 2014 at 1:10PM

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG)(NASDAQ:GOOG)(NASDAQ:GOOG) hired Ivy Ross, design guru and marketing evangelist at some of the big names in the fashion world, to lead its Glass team. Ross is tasked with convincing the masses to embrace Google Glass as a cool and fashionable gadget, not something only techies would want to buy.

Can Google depend on Ross to meet that challenge or does she have more on her plate than she can handle? And is Glass' fashion problem just the tip of the iceberg?


Ivy Ross, photo credit Google Glass. 

Simple steps to make wearables wearable
The move bodes well for Glass' efforts to put the wearability in wearables. The $1,500 pair of smart specs has already made inroads in the fashion world. In fact, it has reached the upper echelons of influence when it comes to trendsetting style.

It was featured in a 12-page editorial in last year's encyclopedic September issue of Vogue. During New York's Fall Fashion Week in 2012, legendary for her vibrant patterns, Diane von Furstenberg sent her models down the runway wearing the augmented reality glasses.

More recently, the tech giant shook hands with Italian eyewear maker and Ray-ban's parent company Luxottica (NYSE:LUX)(NYSE:LUX)(NYSE:LUX) on a deal that's a big win for Google. Luxottica's extensive wholesale distribution network and over 7,000 stores worldwide will give Google direct access to hundreds of millions of consumers in an eyewear-appropriate setting.

Handing over the reins to a world-class fashion executive was the next logical step.

What's Ross bringing to the table? 
Ivy Ross might not be a tech expert, but she's bringing an impressive track record, fashion expertise, and marketing know-how to the Glass team. She knows how to design and sell people stuff that they actually want to wear. In her own words, she has worked at "Calvin Klein, Swatch, Coach, Mattel, Bausch & Lomb, Gap, and, most recently, Art.com -- at the intersection of design and marketing."

Research has shown that women -- who, generally speaking, care more about looks than men do -- outnumber men among prospective buyers of wearable-tech devices. Ross' sense of style could shake off Glass' dorky feeling and turn it into a cool gadget every lady would have on her wish list.

More importantly, having worked for both mid-level and higher-end labels means that she understands the ins and outs of luring people into paying through the nose for things that might be inexpensive to make, just like Google Glass. A recent report from TechInsights' Teardown.com revealing that the high-tech headpiece costs less than $80 to produce, even though it sells for a whopping $1,500, caused quite a stir. Ross could find a way to frame the futuristic headset in a way that makes consumers feel that they're getting their money's worth.

Why fixing Glass' image problem is important

Turning Glass' perception around has never been more crucial, especially now that the battle for the lion's share in the smart-glass market is getting tougher.

Word is out that Samsung (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) will unveil a Google Glass competitor as early as this September. If a new report from Business Korea turns out to be true, Samsung, which sells the largest number of Android phones worldwide, will come out with its own version of smart specs, titled the Gear Glass. The South Korean tech giant plans to power it through its Tizen operating system rather than Android and equip it with an earpiece for listening to music and answering calls.

Moreover, while Glass has sparked extraordinary public interest, it is yet impossible to say if it will take off business-wise. Even so, looking ahead, Glass could be an essential part of Google's business and growth strategy. It could be Google's way of introducing the world into technologies that are likely to shape our future.

"With Google Glass, the computer sees what you see and hears what you hear, opening up serious artificial intelligence opportunities. Continuous monitoring is likely to be a powerful element in our lives: health monitoring, environment and security controls, traffic management, flow of materials.... Google Glass and similar devices will draw computing power into context of your interactions with other people and the environment. This gives a new foothold for artificial intelligence," Vint Cerf, vice president and chief Internet evangelist for Google, pointed out to Pew Research recently.

Positioning Glass as a more mainstream consumer product is of paramount importance.

How big is the iceberg?
Shaking off that dorky feeling might be easier said than done. Experimenting with different colors and designs to make Glass fashionable or even spending vast amounts of marketing dollars on pushing it into the mainstream might not do the trick. There's undeniably a stigma attached to wearing a computer on your face.

Recently, Google published a post titled " The Top 10 Google Glass Myths" in an effort to address the skepticism surrounding the device. "In its relatively short existence, Glass has seen some myths develop around it. While we're flattered by the attention, we thought it might make sense to tackle them, just to clear the air," Google asserted.

The fact that Google had to go into the trouble of defending its product says a lot about public perception of Glass-like futuristic devices and limitations stemming from what people feel comfortable to use.

Glass encompasses the "new normal" -- living life through technology, not around technology. Social acceptance of the "new normal" is an issue that needs to undergo a sea change. But the time for this might not have yet come or the product that could provoke this change might not have been invented yet.

Final thoughts
Slowly but surely the worlds of fashion and consumer electronics are converging. Fashion start-ups are testing the technology waters in a daring way while more and more tech giants are turning to established designers and fashion experts for help. Ivy Ross could work wonders for Glass.

Nevertheless, Rome wasn't built in a day. All that Glass may need to be successful is a little more time.

Leaked: Apple's next smart device (warning, it may shock you)
Apple recently recruited a secret-development Dream Team to guarantee its newest smart device was kept hidden from the public for as long as possible. But the secret is out...and some early viewers are even claiming its everyday impact could trump the iPod, iPhone, AND the iPad. In fact, ABI Research predicts 485 million of these type of devices will be sold per year. But one small company makes this gadget possible. And its stock price has nearly unlimited room to run for early in-the-know investors. To be one of them, and see Apple's newest smart gizmo, just click here!

Fani Kelesidou has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Google (C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of Google (C shares). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of fool.com.

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to www.fool.com/beginners, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at www.fool.com/podcasts.

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.

Compare Brokers