Today in San Francisco, Nest demoed its latest marketing tactic for the first time: an interactive fire truck that will be featured on Pimp My Ride. It’s a fitting gimmick, given that the smart thermostat company recently announced its move into the smoke detector market with Nest Protect.
Nest Protect has a handful of cool features, ranging from the ability to shut off your smoke detector by waving your hand in front of it, to alerting you to smoke with a voice warning instead of a screeching siren.
Of course, the fun features come with a price and the Nest Protect costs $129, $70 more than the more expensive smoke detectors on the market. To convince people to buy it, the company has to prove why a smart device is worth the extra cost.
Nest, like other startups Uber and Lyft, has a few branding tricks up its sleeve to do just that.
It bought a fire truck off Craigslist. Nest creative employees had seen the show Pimp My Ride, so they enlisted the help of the show’s West Coast Customs to trick the truck out, painting it Nest egg blue. West Coast also added smoke demonstration windows for showing off the product, a Nest grill for the front of the truck, and a wall of fire safety educational resources for kids to play with.
But West Coast did Nest one better than just a customization. The company decided to feature the startup’s firetruck on the show.
Before the episode airs, Nest will be touring the truck around 18 Home Depots, parking it outside to give customers a demonstration of the product. After all, smoke detectors haven’t changed much in the last few decades. Getting people onboard with a disruptive version will take some education. “We’re trying to bring this back into people’s consciousness,” Doug Sweeny, the Nest VP of Marketing, says.
As a company, Nest has inspired people’s childlike excitement. The truck demo was no different. Nest rolled it out for the first time at GigaOM’s Roadmap conference. Attendees came over to interact with the truck and a handful got excited that they might be able to buy a Nest Protect on site. They were crushed to learn they couldn’t — it’s not on sale yet.
Once it rolls out, Sweeny said that Nest is teaming up with Uber. In San Francisco there will be days when Uber riders can request to drive in the Nest firetruck.
On stage with GigaOM’s Om Malik, Nest founder Tony Fadell explained his goal with Nest products. “Connected products like these are not like cell phones replaced every year,” Fadell says. “They’re going to be in your home years and years. You have to create magical moments throughout that entire lifetime.”
He describes his product design process as a mix of rational and emotional thinking, blended together. You do have to think about functionality, utility, and in Nest’s case, regulation. But you also need to pay attention to delighting the customer. The best ways to do that are by giving a product new, creative use cases or addressing a problem customers have had for decades.
The Nest smoke alarm does exactly that. At night, Nest automatically senses someone’s presence and turns on as a temporary night light. If a user also has a Nest thermostat, the Nest smoke detector will turn off the home furnace if it detects carbon monoxide. And the Nest Protect will send your phone notifications if it’s running out of battery, so you can change it before going to bed.
“We’re there to create magical moments for you,” Fadell says.
Being able to burn popcorn without bursting your eardrums is a magical, albeit mediocre, moment.