Can Bluetooth ever be cool?
That is a question that must be troubling technology marketeers across the world, including the makers of headsets and other Bluetooth-enabled devices, and the organisation that manages Bluetooth technology – the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG).
Bluetooth has been around since 1998, and actual Bluetooth devices started appearing a couple of years later. The very first commercially available Bluetooth product was from Ericsson, as reported in Incisor in November 1999.
From that day forth, promoters of Bluetooth have hoped that there would be a global wave of enthusiasm for the technology from consumers. But it just hasn’t happened. Despite the fact that legislation in a number of countries forces us to use Bluetooth headsets if we want to talk on a cellphone in our cars, Bluetooth daily usage is apparently going down, not up. Research company Strategy Analytics says by as much as 40% in the USA over the last year.
Here at Incisor we think that a big part of the problem is that nobody, but nobody has managed to make wearing a Bluetooth headset cool. Instead, the words ‘Bluetooth’ and ‘naff’ are heard together on far too often a basis. Only taxicab drivers and people who wear leisure suits made from synthetic materials (ok, they are often the same people) seem to think it is OK to be seen walking around wearing a Bluetooth headset.
The web is loaded with anti-Bluetooth humour, including this. Bluetooth-mocking movies are even being used as a device by companies marketing products. Check this commercial out for Keystone Light Beer. Even the vendors of Bluetooth equipment are doing it – thanks, Philips, for this one.
Some claim to be working to try to make Bluetooth cool, and have been using the old chestnut of celebrity endorsement. Courtesy of Plantronics’ marketing machine, we learn that P Diddy, Eva Longoria and Brooke Shields apparently all use Plantronics headsets. Bluetooth headsets have even made their way into music videos – Motorola product placement is at work as we watch this one for Fergie’s Big girls don’t cry. This is one of the better ones – check out that car, that girl, that track, and the headset is OK too.
But it is not working! Or else, why are all of those iPod users still walking around with their tacky white plastic headsets? Why would we want to use wired headsets when there is a huge range of wireless headsets on the market now for similar money? Heck, its a problem when even the world's coolest company can't make Bluetooth cool!
And surely this must be holding back the more widespread deployment of Bluetooth technology in other consumer electronics devices?
With some justification, the Bluetooth SIG and big-name consumer electronics (CE) companies that are supporting Bluetooth will point to the fact that billions of Bluetooth chips have been shipped, and have been built into many products that are in the hands of consumers all over the world. That is true, but it doesn’t mean that these people are using Bluetooth, or that massive chip sales means that Bluetooth has become aspirational (like, dare we say it, an iPod) or, to use the word again, cool.
So, what is the problem, and is it too late? Can Bluetooth regain the momentum it had in the early years, when people actually criticised the Bluetooth trailblazers for creating too much publicity and too much pent-up demand and hype (‘bet they’d like some of that back now!)? What would it take?
We have theories, but we want to hear from the big wide world. This blog will be promoted via all of Incisor’s channels, and that includes Twitter, Facebook and business networking sites such as LinkedIn.
And we will take it a stage further. On the 26th of September Incisor is staging a public event called Bite-Back (Bluetooth/Incisor – Bite-Back – geddit?) at a venue in the UK where there will be live music and – the main point – lots of young people. We will have the IncisorTV cameras there, a bunch of Bluetooth products and we will interview people and ask them for their views – it could be a bit painful for the Bluetooth faithful, but who knows, something really good could come.
We will make a short movie from the event and this will be promoted in the next issue of Incisor, as will a follow-up feature that will report some of the views that we hear.
It should be exciting. And maybe we will even learn what it will take to make Bluetooth cool.