You may have noticed Elon Musk launched a new Tesla last week, the Cybertruck, and the internet reviewers are not pleased with it.
- ‘Looks like it was designed on MS Paint.’
- ‘My 12 y/o brother drew a truck like that on his school bag.’
- And so on.
— Kristian 'register to vote' Sturt (@FootieWriter) November 22, 2019
I’ll admit, I’m not attracted to it. Statistically speaking, you probably aren’t either.*
And our opinion matters about as much as your dog’s thoughts on global tariff policy.
We. Are. Not. The. Target. Market.
So much business stupidity and failure come from believing the customer likes what you and your uniform bunch of friends like.
Socials: An infinite resource of garbage advice
A major part of the art of business is having the confidence to reject torrents of worthless advice, because if you listen to it, you will get nothing done. Particularly anything that involves creative or innovation.
There’s so much instant, ill-considered feedback available on anything new now. Most people hate anything new with a psychotic passion. Change makes them so uncomfortable.
You get this a lot with rebrands. My god, people hate a new logo. When big brands change their identity, there’s always a storm of indignation from online cranks whose tweets fuel the next day’s media coverage. They get really huffy when they read a new global bank logo cost a million dollars. A MILLION DOLLARS!
‘I could have done it for half that,’ say random punters whose own design skills peaked with a garage sale flyer made in Microsoft Word.
You can start thinking that reading these random keyboard spasms is a useful gauge of market sentiment.
No. These troll-pinions are a waste of your valuable time. They’re the product version of all those TripAdvisor freaks who hate new places, people and fun.
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If you want advice go and talk to people who have actually spent money on your sort of product.
Musk is doing the world a major favour by electrifying a product sector dominated by monstrous gas guzzlers, and people who want massive truck power will want Cybertruck. If you don’t have or want a truck, shut up.
Unleash the dictator within
I’ve written before about the value of more heads being across business decisions. It works in management. I’m told it’s good for surgical opinions and high court decisions. The parliamentary democracy model gives you better, saner decisions.
For creative decisions, I’m sorry, but the full dictatorship model works better. You find someone with the epic vision, and you let them bring that bastard to life. There will be input and support from others, but the final decision is made by one person who answers only to their own quality ethic.
People like that are hard to find and they are easily demoralised by creative input from Janelle from HR.
I’m a pretty collaborative decision-maker across our businesses. But I bow out of technical decisions because I trust our people, and my skills there are Myspace-era.
But there are creative marketing calls to be made, and here’s how that works: it’s my fucking decision. I’m not interested in anyone else’s stupid opinion on what colour they prefer or whatever.
Fortunately, my business partners are cool with it when I go: we should launch our own alcohol brand or buy a private jet as a PR caper because it will make our brand more profitable in the long-term.
Timidity is the enemy of your future profit margins.
(Side note: in my old corporate job, there was a polyester shirt guy who rather fancied himself as a marketing expert, and with each campaign, he would weigh in with ‘it’s not corporate enough’ or ‘this makes us look like we’re not serious’. After fighting him for a while I realised he was a valuable part of the process, in that if he didn’t hate something, it was not interesting enough and so it went straight to the bin. That system worked well.)
You don’t know the full story
Keyboard coaching is done in a vacuum, without any strategic context.
Maybe there’s a perfectly valid reason for the Cybertruck’s look. The below Twitter thread is interesting.
To keep cost down, they GOT RID OF PRESSED BODY PANELS!!! When was the last time you saw a car that didn't have a pressed body panel? The machines to make body panels are *the* most expensive machines in the production process. Removing those makes a huge difference. /5
— Brad Garcia (@bradgarcia) November 23, 2019
Basically, that brutal design allows it to be a $40,000 truck, not a $70,000 truck, because panel curves and paint are expensive. So Cybertruck can be mass-market rather than a niche status symbol. A pretty important point to miss if you’re just judging it as an artwork.
What’s your Cybertruck?
You and I aren’t Elon Musk. He’s an interesting rich maniac. But interesting and mildly successful is 99% as good.
If you have a smaller business, you can still make wild-ass calls using Cybertruck thinking, even if it’s only the design of your website or your packaging.
You have the choice between blazing an amazing trail that you’ll look back on with pride in a decade, or settling on being the fourth-best imitator of someone else’s proven product. Plenty of people choose the latter and do OK, but it’s not getting me out of bed in the morning.
Your competitors in big companies don’t have that choice, because they have risk committees and layers of bureaucratic opinion-havers who will fiddle with it until it looks exactly the same as everything else in the market. Because that makes them comfortable and comfort is all they care about.
They may have more money and buildings than you, but you’re free to make things interesting. That’s your biggest competitive advantage.
Time to Musk up, people.
*I wrote this article, opened my social stream, and saw two Cybertruck order screenshots from people I know. Make of that what you will. Hi Jeremy and Kris!
This article was first published on Motivation for Sceptics.