“We Suck” vs “We Suck! We Suck!”

Who gets to say we suck. Or we suck twice as bad. That is the question.

1) You get to say it if you have little risk of "we suck exposure" (WSE)

  1. web companies delivering software as a service
  2. software companies with EULAs that indemnify them against…well.. everything.
  3. companies low subscription rates or ad supported model
  4. companies selling low dollar stuff
  5. companies that don’t make a big juicy target for class action lawsuits
  6. people below the radar to the point that nobody listens anyway
  7. people with really good errors and omissions coverage
  8. small businesses
  9. anyone with a CEO about to retire
  10. Apple (at least after the protests start)
  11. … and plenty of others that generally fly below the big guns

People who do NOT get to say we suck, or those with high WSE (danger!)

  1. big companies
  2. anyone with deep pockets

The biggest challenge with We Suck is that IT IS GOOD PR! Americans love a stand up guy who apologizes. Although it is usually a past tense as in "I previously sucked but have changed my ways." Martha Stewart vs Ken Lay. It is the low WSE companies that go against good PR tractics and do not admit wrongdoing and liability because of exposure.

Perhaps that second group needs to say "we’d like to say "we suck" but our lawyers won’t let us". What the big guys try to do, particularly in healthcare is to apologize without acknowledging responsibility. Always fun to watch the copywriter squirm on that one.

There are exceptions of course. If your stock is in the toilet then why not declare you suck? Maybe you get some coverage from the adoring blogosphere? There is after all only one direction to go before deploying the golden parachute.

I am not disagreeing that you should be honest when stuff is bad, and engage in a conversation if they actually care what you have to say. But I don’t want to hear mea culpas from the deli if the coke tastes bad. Meanwhile Tylenol and Firestone are writing case studies on apologize without class action.

To Nick’s grumpy point, hell yes everyone wants good stuff purchased for a fair to low price. A good value. Steve is definitely more on the warm fuzzy side, but perhaps he has a point that people appreciate accountability and sometimes that includes saying "I suck".