The Empty Promise

Despite the best effort of marketing and sales departments, good design never promises that which it does not intend to deliver. One of the easiest ways to alienate your user base is to overpromise and underdeliver.

Even the best designers will always live with some level of disappointment. You can’t please everyone, nor should you try. But making a conscious decision to sacrifice some features for the sake of others is different than writing a marketing check that your design department can’t cash.

Some will argue that a product launch must be hyped at all costs. Promise everything and ask forgiveness later. This is short-term thinking and fails to consider the long-term effect of brand loyalty that comes from product integrity.

Allowing the marketing department to drive the bus is a mistake that will almost always lead to disillusionment. A good launch strategy involves close collaboration between the hype team and the execution team. Project leads must manage expectations, carefully balancing excitement with realism.

I thought about this last night when I watched the series premiere of Vinyl on HBO. Vinyl has to be one of the most over-hyped television shows of the past decade. They had me convinced that Scorsese and crew had a huge hit on their hands.

The pilot let me down, but don’t take my word for it. The reviews all indicate that HBO overpromised and underdelivered, and their brand will likely take a long-term hit as a result.

Know the limits of your beta. Hype the hell out of it, but don’t promise what you know you can’t deliver.