Unique Problems: Segway - The Coolest Thing People Won't Be Caught Dead Using

by Brian Haven
@ 3:32 PM


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A few years ago I was working for a design firm that was bidding on a project for a Segway store design. It got me thinking about how unique Segway's problem is, in terms of targeting the average person. Leading up to the original unveiling of the Segway (I think they referred to it as "IT" at the time), there was a lot of talk about how it would revolutionize personal travel. Now don't get me wrong here, Dean Kamen is a genius. His work on radical new concepts in wheelchairs alone gives him all the brownie points he needs. And the Segway is truly revolutionary--but nobody uses them. Why?

Think about it. The last time you saw someone riding one, what went through your head? Probably something like this: "Wow, that's really cool. But man, that guy is a nerd. I'd like to try it, but I'd never use it because I'd look like a nerd." And there you have it, it's the coolest thing you'd never be caught dead riding. Fundamentally, it's so revolutionary and ahead of it's time, people are afraid of using it. And the name is perfect--Segway implies both that it moves you from one place to another like changing topics in a conversation as well as implying a transition in the way we think about transportation from old methods to new. I suppose the price point is a bit steep (I've seen them range from $3k to $4k) which could hold people back, but I don't think that's as big of an issue.

So this begs the question, how could Segway get around this. I have a idea. I think people feel odd being the only person to be riding one, kind of a catch 22 that means that no one will get the ball rolling. Segway should invade one city at a time. Find 300-400 people in Boston for example, all that work in the downtown area (or some other concentrated, high population area). Select people that work in the area and live within a reasonable distance that they could ride the Segway to work. Let them use it for free from Memorial Day to Labor Day on the condition that they are seen riding it every weekday (morning, noon, and evening). Pay people if you have to. I'm thinking that a concentrated area swarmed by Segways for three months (and a sales office conveniently located in the area) might help dislodge the stigma since it wouldn't be embarrassing to be seen on one, because everyone has one.

I realize that Segway would need to be careful that this tactic doesn't come across as some type of staged, deceptive viral campaign. However, I think that people might be more receptive to the device if they were rinding with dozens of other people.

My 2¢.


26 Jul 2007
My colleague, Josh Bernoff, kicked off a great discussion yesterday...

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06 Aug 2007
So Pete tagged me with the "8 random things" meme....

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