I woke up today to some texts from New York. Unlike 24 hours ago, they weren’t disillusioned messages about the outcome of the presidential election.
Snap’s Spectacles had arrived in California. And they were only available via a single kiosk sitting where Sunset Boulevard hits the Venice Beach boardwalk.
Spectacles are the Snap company’s first foray into the consumer hardware market — glasses that you can record 10-second videos with. The catch is that they only work with the Snapchat app. The company is betting on the same cool, community-driven growth that made it a social media juggernaut.
Snapchat is unveiling a brilliant guerrilla-marketing rollout that bets on its plugged-in audience, and it appears to be working. The company places the kiosk in a single location for 24 hours, before it disappears and mysteriously reappears in a new location to repeat another 24-hour cycle. Very Snap-y.
My intel came from my good friend Kerry Flynn at Mashable — she’s based in New York and, being three hours ahead of me, she was well on top of Snap’s launch of its futuristic, video-capturing sunglasses.
Kerry’s text simply read: GO GET SPECTACLES.
So this was my big opportunity. Luckily, I live at Speedway and Hurricane, just a few blocks south of Venice Beach pier. I could be there in five minutes. I hit up my buddy and Venice neighbor Vince Cacace, CEO of VR/AR ad-tech startup Vertebrae, and told him to meet me in line.
I quickly stepped out to walk my dog, Lucky, and 15 minutes later I was on my bike and cruising toward Snapchat.
When I arrived there was already a line. For a second I regretted walking Lucky, but dogs come first, right?
I noticed immediately that the crowd was similar to me. Tim Peterson from Marketing Land was in the front of the line about to purchase. My buddy Tom from Twitter showed up shortly after.
Everyone had a similar story: They woke up to texts from media and tech friends on the East Coast and immediately rushed toward the heart of Venice.
There were a couple outliers. One woman had a friend at Snapchat who tipped her off. A young guy on a skateboard, who said he doesn’t even like Snapchat, randomly stumbled upon the line and decided it was a cool way to score brownie points with his girl (even at $140 a pop).
Unfortunately, just after Tim purchased his Spectacles, the kiosk appeared to be empty. There was some confusion as to whether the system was jammed, with some people claiming, “There’s black ones left, but it’s just not working.”
Meanwhile, in the blue beach house that once served as the only Snapchat office — in the days before Snapchat became a Venice real estate mogul — you could see what appeared to be Snapchat employees photographing us (snapping, I assume) as the growing line of people grew skeptical that we’d be getting our Spectacles.
Rumors started. “That’s it, no more. This is how they’re teasing out a limited product.” Then, finally, someone from line walked up to the beach house and let them know that the kiosk wasn’t working.
That did the trick. Within minutes, some men in what appeared to be costume-style hazmat suits (poor man’s “Stranger Things” hazmat suits at best) appeared and set up a white tent to “service the kiosk.” The operation came complete with a muscle-bound security guard, but a very friendly one at that — very smiley.
This super-secretive kiosk maintenance took nearly 20 minutes, enough time for more rumors to swirl. One member of the local startup scene, who is working on an AR startup himself, proclaimed: “There’s a person in the kiosk, I know it.”
I don’t think there was, but, hey, this is Venice — and stranger things have happened. Finally, the kiosk was back up and running, and all three colors of Spectacles were loaded up: Blue, black and pink/orange. There was a limit of two pair per person, and I obliged, grabbing myself and the Fabric Media team the frames in blue and black.
As I purchased mine, I turned around and realized the line had grown by at least 10x. And as I saw everyone snapping, tweeting and Facebook Live-ing the event, it hit me again: What brilliant marketing. A physical-world stunt was becoming a multi-platform digital media phenomenon.
The line to purchase (three hours, by recent accounts) and the social media posting is only growing.
Welcome to the future.
The author, in his first moments seeing the world through Spectacles, interviewed by his friend Vince Cacace, who is also wearing Spectacles.
Zach Servideo is a partner at Fabric Media, a consortium of creative individuals rallied around innovative companies. He is building a creative collective in Venice, Calif., to bring together the community of local business owners, artists, technologists and dream seekers. Servideo has been a media and editorial consultant for 10 years since graduating from Boston University's College of Communication. Reach him @ZachServideo.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.