Commentary

Lexus Develops A Hoverboard Prototype

My world has been shaken to its core. Upon turning on the TV and flipping to the one stretch of channels that caters to aging oafs, I found that it was gone. Vanished. Disappeared to another realm - a better one, perhaps, in which movies releasedbetween 1988and 1995 and documentaries about misunderstood superbands coexist without thematic dissonance. I mourned, both for what was and what would never be again.

Upon further investigation, I determined that the channels had simply been relocated on my cable dial (in their original order), and that somehow I’d missed the mail, email, text and phone dispatches designed to alert me to the switch. Still: holy cognitive reorientation, dude. The human mind is not designed to process such tele-tectonic shifts.

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In the end, it’s a moot point. We need not worry about the actuality and/or firmness of the ground under our feet much longer, because - sound the segue siren! unfurl the body-of-column banner! - it appears we’re finally about to enter the hoverboard era. Did you see this thing yesterday? Lexus, of all manufacturers, claims that it has developed a hoverboard prototype. The company plans on drawing out the reveal until October 21, the day in Back to the Future in which Marty McFly traveled back in time to prevent Bill and Ted from terminating John Connor.

My first impulse upon seeing the clip was to check whether the Internet’s veracity police had confirmed that it wasn’t another prank. My second was to chirp “neat-o!” brightly, then busy myself with the week’s most amusing brand play, which revolved around dueling shark programming. [Short review, because there’s not enough in there to sustain 600 words: Genius, if a touch too media-insider-y for viewers who just want to see sharks wreck stuff.]

Back to today’s clip: I know I’m supposed to be all HOLY DRIPPIN’ EXPLETIVE IT’S A FUNCTIONAL HOVERBOARD THAT’S BOARD-SHAPED AND HOVERS AND WHOOO LOOK AT THOSE MOTION VAPORS WHOOOOO OH MAN I’D SELL MY CHILDREN FOR JUST ONE RIDE DOWN THE DRIVEWAY TO PICK UP THE MAIL. But hoverboards are ready to be relegated to what I call the Bacon Zone (that’s bacon the lunchmeat, not Bacon the actor or Bacon the philosopher/jurist), which is kind of a retirement home for overplayed Internet bits/obsessions. Once you enter the bacon zone, you’re pretty much done.

I get the fascination with hoverboards. They’re skateboards that fly. I am not immune to the coolness of such a proposition. That fascination, though, is out of whack with the real-world benefits of such an association. In marketers’ minds, any connection with pop-culture-informed futuristic technology equals a huge flashing sign that says, “We are innovative! Innovation! Future! Us! Yeah!” In reality, outside of the pop-cred points you amass with audiences unlikely to purchase your actual, happening-in-current-reality product, you’re just occupying space until the next supermeme comes along.

Still, I think Lexus is onto something here - not by attempting to slake our unquenchable hoverlust, but by changing the conversation around its brand. Assuming these pumpkin futures mature as I expect they will, my next car may be a Lexus. My purchase rationale is that Lexuses (Lexi?) are comfortable, well-made and shiny. For me at least, the brand associations end there.

That’s why Lexus’ viral-baiters oughta hope that 1/7000th of the people who check out the hoverboard video click through to the other clips in its “Amazing in Motion” series. I’m not going to spoil them, other to say that they convey an easy intrigue and sense of forward-mindedness that the hoverboard video practically begs for. I came into them associating Lexus with comfort/quality/shine; I came out of them wondering why the brand waited so long to flash its creative and transformative chops.

So thumbs-up, I guess? There are less productive ways Lexus could’ve spent this cash than on a functional hoverboard, I suppose. There’s your cover blurb.

1 comment about "Lexus Develops A Hoverboard Prototype".
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  1. Cynthia Amorese from JAL Enterprises NY, June 25, 2015 at 9:04 p.m.

    Having snoozed through my one viewing of Back to the Future, I wasn't familiar with the term "hoverboard." I assumed at first that Lexus had developed a type of hovercraft for people who live near large bodies of water. But you got me to the link, and then to the wonderful "Amazing in Motion" videos, which were indeed creative and transformative. Thanks for the surprise -- I'd never have seen them if not for your column.

    P.S. Isn't bacon primarily a breakfast meat?

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