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Carolyn Hax

Carolyn Hax

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Advice columnist Carolyn Hax took questions live.

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Posted at 03:20 PM ET, 02/20/2013

Please, Google, I want some Glass

Google Glass, smart glasses under development by Google, are seen in an undated handout picture released Feb. 20, 2013. (Reuters)

This post has been updated.

The company that has become famous for, among other things, its riddle-me-this interview style is asking those eager to try their Glass product — essentially a wearable computer — to fill out an application.

Search and advertising giant Google issued the call-for-applications Wednesday to “bold, creative individuals” with $1,500 to spare. The application, which can be submitted via Twitter or, of course, Google Plus, should be no longer than 50 words, and include the hashtag #IfIHadGlass. Applications can have as many as five photos and a short video (no longer than 15 seconds). And, of course, don’t forget to follow the Google Glass project on Google Plus at +ProjectGlass or on Twitter (@projectglass). Oh, and if you’re under 18, forget it, you’re not eligible. The deadline is Feb. 27. Eight thousand people with the highest scores on their applications will receive invitations.

The marketing tactic casts a spotlight on an interesting conundrum for Google as well as a change in the nature of advertising online.

The application process means that Google is able to simultaneously collect data on its potential consumer population while cranking the volume up even higher on the buzz machine for not only the Glass product but its social network. (Did you notice how you can’t apply through Facebook?)

The call for applications is yet another sign of what the co-authors of “Can’t Buy Me Like” (“On the Media” host Bob Garfield and ad agency MePlusYOU CEO and co-founder Doug Levy) have identified as “the Shift” — the transition from “the Consumer Era” to “the Relationship Era.” In their book, Garfield and Levy write that advertising is undergoing “the shift from mass to micro, the shift from top-down to bottom-up and the shift from the traditional marketing to purposeful marketing.”

While Google is far from a company struggling for market dominance, this application-as-advertisement abides by the authors’ caution: “Corporations and their brands now can and must behave with their various constituencies in ways exactly parallel to human relationships”(emphasis theirs).

“They certainly understand how to involve their users and their whole community in the process of developing this product,” said Garfield during a phone interview Wednesday. “They will get far more attention from this exercise than they would have from a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign.”

Charging people to be beta testers makes the product more exclusive and creates much more buzz than if they had just given it away, continued Garfield. “And they will have a manageable number of applications to deal with.”

Ultimately, said Garfield, the application-as-advertisement model Google is carrying out is “a pretty good example of how ... involving your audience can be far more powerful than anything you used to be able to do in the good old days.”

It’s “very much in line with the relationship era,” said Levy during a separate interview.

“I think this is an example of creative marketers doing something innovative,” continued Levy. “It follows on a path of ways companies involve people in being co-creators.”

That said, the model has also allowed the company to open itself to parody, as our own Alexandra Petri makes clear:

And, of course, complaints, as user @Black412Gold shows here:

Asked whether they would apply for their own pair, the co-authors parted ways. “I could see so much potential with Google Glass, I would love to get my hands on one,” Levy said.

Garfield, however, said he wouldn’t — “not because I’m not interested. It’s just because I have some unfunded tuition liabilities. So, I’m saving my pennies.” He’ll be waiting, he said, for it to reach store shelves.

Disclosure: Washington Post Co. Chairman and chief executive Donald E. Graham is a member of Facebook’s board of directors. The author’s sibling is an employee at Google, but does not work on Google Glass.

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