When Snap Inc. -- the camera company behind the popular photo-sharing social media site Snapchat -- first unveiled its Spectacles camera sunglasses earlier this year, it was immediately clear that it wouldn't be a typical tech product launch.
Spectacles were initially only available for retail sale out of "Snapbots," bright yellow vending machines that appear on street corners with little advance notice and disappear 24 hours later. The company has been revealing where and when the next vending machines will pop up in the "map" section of its website. Snap later opened a single pop-up retail store in New York City, but the location closed in the new year.
The unconventional marketing strategy has clearly worked so far, pumping up demand for the product. Users who haven't been lucky enough to live nearby a Snapbot have resorted to purchasing them off marketplaces like eBay (EBAY) for as much as double the retail price of $129 per pair.
"Crafting a message that drives organic social sharing is the Holy Grail of any marketing effort," said Chris Jenkins, chief digital officer at marketing firm the Symphony Agency. "By both limiting the number of units sold, and not announcing the location in advance, they created an urgency in that sharing."
Snap's plans, although successful, stand in sharp contrast to the typical marketing strategies for other technology companies. Names like Apple (AAPL) , Alphabet (GOOGL) and Samsung (SSNLF) have all been known to unveil their products in massive keynote events. Going forward, these companies might be forced to reexamine how they market their products.
"Tech companies should take this as a sign that you can successfully launch a product without spending millions in traditional advertising if you're willing to make your marketing social first, and if you keep the price point affordable enough that basically anyone can buy one," Jenkins noted.