Saturday, February 12, 2005

Lightning Strikers Manifesto


LiStriMani. Copyright 2005 by Steven Streight. Created in Paint Shop Pro 7. Posted by Hello

Against Guy Kawasaki's Marketing Mediocrity

I just read a bizarre post on a blog, a post that spoke of the "Don't Worry, Be Crappy" theory of marketing.

This idea is declared in Rules for Revolutionaries(1999) by Guy Kawasaki.

Is this the old "put out the flawed product, hype it like crazy, and generate enough hysteria that you'll sell tons of it before anybody knows what's really going on"?

You bet it is.

One aspect of it is the attitude of "Who cares if the product is junk? Hype it and hard sell it."

Generate fast revenues from it, then, at your leisure, after many duped customers have invested heavily in the crap product, issue "patches", "fixes", "add-ons", or "upgrades" that fix the flaws, using the income derived from the shoddy product.

It's the opposite of "Disciplined product development process and the refusal to ship crap."

As my web developer discussion list friend, Peter McGregor stated in a recent post:

I recall way back in the early 1980s when the first PCs appeared and software for them was not plentiful, someone (who shall be nameless) telling me:

"If you write a program for the PC and place a small advert for it in the pages of Byte Magazine, (circulation was huge both sides of the pond) even if is riddled with bugs, you'll have 100k responses within a couple of weeks. Charge $10 a time for your offering CWO and you then cut and run as a rich man before anyone realises it isn't that good a product!"

Yes, a small percentage of a large base can be very profitable. (Sometimes wish I'd followed the advice - but at least I can live with my conscience!!)

---Peter MacGregor (used with permission).

This "Don't worry, be crappy" concept is the single most vile, self-destructive, anti-consumer, pro-mediocrity concept to hit marketing in probably the last 50 to 100 years.

Let's take a closer look at this "real piece of work" of misguided Marketing Stupidity.

Here's what Joe Agliozzo, over at Disruptive Business Models blog, says about releasing defective, shoddy, poor workmanship, dysfunctional, or bare minimum function, bug-ridden products to the consumer:

What you lose in "polish" and "presentation" along with some functionality is more than made up for in finding out (1) whether the customers are interested in buying what you are selling and (2) what you forgot about that customers actually need.

No matter how much thinking the team does on product features, customers will always come up with different or additional stuff that they have to have and they will let you know about it.

Of course, you always have to reach out to your customer base and communicate that your product is under development and needs more work, you want to partner with the customer in making the best product possible, etc. Don't claim your product is perfect when you know it is not, be humble.

Heaven forbid that the pharmaceutical companies follow this "crap product" release idea.

Or the automobile airbag manufacturers.

Or the vehicle child safety seat manufacturers.

Or railroads.

Or any product or service related to public safety and health. Which means most products and services, except for pure entertainment.

"Be crappy" with software and computer products?

Well, they tie in with national defense, food distribution systems, nuclear reactor regulation, etc.

See the PC World "What's Biggest Security Problem?" article, the third subhead, "Holey Software" at:

Here's what I recently added to the Wikipedia entry on Guy Kawasaki:

[UPDATE EDIT Sunday Feb. 13, 2005: Wikipedia administrators deleted my comments. So if you follow the link, and don't see my statements as provided below, it's not because I lied. It's because they removed my wiki edit.]

Some of Kawasaki's ideas are not accepted by experienced direct marketers or consumer advocates.

For example, in Rules for Revolutionaries he advances the controversial principle of "Don't Worry, Be Crappy" in which he encourages companies to release shoddy, buggy, dysfunctional or barely functional "crap" products to the consumer. The hope is that the consumers will then forgive the company, send in their specs for improvement, and eagerly await the new improved version. Some consider this the "dumbing down" of beta testing and sheer marketing suicide, since it ignores negative word of mouth advertising by "chumped" customers.

"Ship shoddy, but ship first" can also be open to allegations of false advertising. Also, it is not universally valid to state that "first in the marketplace" equates to "market dominance" or the lion's share of all potential sales. Many leading brands were not the first in the marketplace with an offering in a specific product category.

This "be crappy" seems bass ackwards to me.

Worse, it sounds misanthropic.

Talk about betraying the trust of your customer base!

This is definitely *not* "mentally correct marketing".

It sounds like "marketing suicide for dummies."

The dumbing down of beta testing.

Beta versions should ideally not be sold, but distributed free to typical, representative users, who provide feedback on bugs and malfunctions.

Beta testers then ought to be altruistically offered a steep discount on the improved version, prior to general release of the mass distribution/improved product to the general public.

This "Be Crappy" approach to product development and distribution blatantly ignores the devastating effects of "word of mouth" advertising by angry, disgruntled, cynical customers who have been "taken" and "suckered" by a "crap" product.

No way will customers send complaints to the manufacturer, wait for the manufacturer to supposedly fix the product, then rush out to buy the new, improved version of the "crappy" product.

What idiotic dream world is this, where customers forgive a provider for gross, intentional foisting of bad products on them?

I buy a "crap" product once and I never go back and buy anything from that manufacturer ever again.

Screw me once, and I hate you forever. There are too many competing products and brands out there to muck around with a loser.

From what I hear proclaimed about his theories, in my opinion, Guy Kawasaki knows NOTHING about marketing or consumer psychology.

NetMarketing, No. 54, December 18, 2000 quotes Gerry McGovern's article of December 1l, 2000 "In Praise of Simplicity":

The technology industry is a speed addict.

The only thing that matters for many companies is to get the product to market before the competition, regardless of whether it works or not. Ship then test. The consumer is not happy [with such shoddy, fault-ridden tech products].

So now let me introduce you to the very opposite of "Don't Worry, Be Crappy" marketing strategy...

The Lightning Strikers Manifesto

(1.) Find out what customers want, before you create and release a product into the marketplace.

(2.) Test the usability and desirability of the product, before you release it to the public.

(3.) Use instant intuition where accumulated facts and data are lacking.

(4.) Once you have the most perfect possible product, based on customer needs (Deming's "voice of the customer") and manufacturing capabilities (Deming's "voice of the process"), strike like lightning with it.

Like lightning, hit the market with your perfect as possible product.

Like lightning, hit the public consciousness, the main stream media, the blogosphere, whatever, with accurate, enthusiastic information about your as perfect as possible product.

Like lightning, hit the competition with sales of your perfect as possible product, taking market share away from them.

Listen to the thunder of customer applause, critical reviewer raves, and competitive groans.

(5.) Reject the "if it ain't broken, don't fix it" mindset of mediocrity. Like lightning, speedily seek weak spots, improvement points, enhancement exciters in your product before the competition does. Constantly seek to find new and better versions of your as perfect as possible product.

(6.) To produce a "good enough" product is to invite the total and irreversible loss of credibility. Once the consumers form a mindset, a belief, a conviction that your products are junk, inferior, or faulty, expect a horrendous, nearly impossible uphill battle to change that perception.

(7.) "Don't Be Blurry, Be Snappy" is a better slogan for those who would destroy the competition and win the hearts and minds of customers. Don't have an unfocused image of the ideal product and settle for an lesser version. Be "snappy", have quick response to verified customer needs and manufacturing capabilities.

(8.) Instant Perfection and Immediate Dominance does occur. Aim for this, and if you fall a bit short, if you must make a gradual progression toward it, at least your target is admirable and worthy of the best thinking you can generate.

(9.) Never release to the public a product that you know is not as good as it could be. Never treat the marketplace like a focus group. When you release a "crappy" product to the customer, you're expecting them to buy something so you can learn more about it. Treat customers like "guinea pigs" and they'll let you wallow in the mud of shame,failure, and poverty.

(10.) Think: is this product, and marketing/distribution strategy, altruistic/philanthropic (i.e., good for others, with others as the priority, but also, therefore, ultimately, eventually, inevitably good for me too)...or narcissistic/misanthropic (i.e., good for me, but detrimental to others).

We have enough "crap" products, "junk" food, "garbage" television, "toxic" politics, and "dysfunctional" family relationships.

Don't dump more waste material on this planet, on sentient beings, or on your precious customers.


Joe Agliozzo said...

Thanks for your comment to my post at

I responded to your comment on my blog, but though I owed it to you to reproduce my comment on your blog as well -

Good point. I agree that be crappy is not a goal, but rather a part of the process.

The reason I advocate be crappy it helps avoid "we can't go to market yet, we don't have [fill in the blank] feature, yet." End result is that often the product never gets released and the company dies (especially if it is a startup).

I have been a part of this, so I know.

In addition, no matter how in touch with the market the creators are, there is no substitute for getting a customer to use the product - that is as close as you can get!

So, some caveats in line with what you rightly point out:

1. probably not a good strategy for safety or life-affecting products (but then few software products really fit this category, right?)
2. fully disclose to the customer (presumably with the designation "beta" etc.) that your product is crappy and you are looking for help in perfecting it
3. compensate the customer by offering the product for free, and insure that you are giving the customer something back by making sure that even the "crappy" product gives them something of value.


Chris said...

Wow. Couldn't disagree with you more, but let me explain.

Not sure how it is in the companies you work or have worked with, but in the Software business, particularly with early-stage companies, no one wants to release anything until its "perfect".

Here's reality - there's no such thing in software. Really. If you think about it, perfection in Software is truly relative. While I don't agree with releasing fundamentally broken software (or any other product, for that matter), deciding where to make the cut was Guy's prolonged point.

I think what I understand about Lightning Strikes makes some sense - but as you've taken Guy's comments as one extreme end of the pendulum's arc, so are some of your comments.

Balancing available resources, current, pending and long-term need/want, and shipping software that a) won't kill anyone and b) meets the economic buyer's need (Moore) will let early and mid-stage companies get product out the door before they implode by not getting the product out the door.

Just another viewpoint... your post was certainly thought-provoking.