So often we are told what we are being shown is the best product ever. We know your products are better than everyone else’s –that’s pride of ownership – we get that. But when you say your new stuff replaces the old stuff...which was just garbage, by the way, we can’t believe anyone fell for that… That’s a pet peeve.
I was seated at a lunch table with other journalists and a CAD CEO, who for reasons soon to be obvious, will remain unnamed. This would normally be a great opportunity to learn more about the company, its direction and strategy. And maybe even get to know the person behind the title. I consider it one of the perks of the job.
This CEO is brash, chatty, and spontaneous. But a few sentences into the conversation, Mr CEO spots me pretending to be a journalist (my open reporter notebook was the clue) and says, just as he was ramping up to something juicy, the fateful words, “Now, this is all off the record…” Damn. Why not just fling my notebook against the wall?
So the rest of this conversation never happened, okay?
“I don't know what we were thinking about [product XXX.] We thought we’d have the market by the …” Short pause while he scans for open notebooks. “But the people who should have bought it had no money.”
Mr CEO proceeds to lambast his entire product line (in favor of the new one, of course).
“Basically, we were going nowhere. We weren’t getting any new customers. We had a big cumbersome product. It was hard to use. It was expensive.”
I am dying to record this, but cannot. No notebook, remember?
I want to blurt out. “Hey, wasn’t that the greatest product in the world when you showed it to us last year? Did you know this all along?” But the guy's on a roll. Plus, everyone at the table is being exceedingly polite, even enthusiastic in their acceptance of Mr CEO’s wisdom.
But I've stopped listening; now the words in my head are drowning out the words in my ears. Why don't I call this guy on what is an obvious and blatant contradiction? He has basically admitted to defrauding us, telling us how great his software is one year, but taking it all back the next.
Some of us more naive ones may have passed on the glowing reports to our readers, though the ones who have been around the block have passed if off as mere CEO bluster. Every year, we get these claims, withdrawn the next year in favor of whatever is being presented on stage. It's as old as software, as old as marketing. A "perfect" product gets improved. We no longer acknowledge the irony, much less rebuke the messenger. To yell "Liar!” would be certain buzz kill. Maybe it would be more refined to flip through the notebook, like they do in shows, looking for a quote from last year through reading glasses…Ah, yes, here it is, "Mr. CEO, didn't you say that version X was the greatest product in the world last year."
But that is a scene that plays only in my head.