I’m reading business magazines again; I just bought the most recent issue of Fast Company. There’s a couple of things I might write about it in, but, as usual, I like to go for the low-hanging fruit first: the thing that struck my eye as I opened the table of contents was: “No. 20/Brash Talk; Box, Tesla, T-mobile, and WWE are thriving by embracing bluntless.” (Dear Waldo, which one is not like the other?) On page 97, we get a list of “Chief Bragging Officers” that includes John Legere, CEO of T-mobile. Since my sister just switched us to T-mobile, this caught my eye.
According to Fast Company, here is a sample of John’s bluntness: “During a January speech at the Consumer Electronics Show, Legere said, ‘AT&T is a total source of amusement for me. They are the ones that take my bullshit. Dumb move. They take the bait.” The article follows this up with the claim that “Legere’s profane rants… have allowed them to steal market share from gigantic competitors because their insults ring true for customers.”
Okay, let’s analyze that. What I’m going to start doing in this blog is use what I discuss in my book; we’ll look at this statement and analyze it using Tibetan syllogistic logic:
(1) Consider brash talk,
(2) It will help me gain market share,
(3) Because it rings true to customers.
True of false? The only way to know whether something is true or not is to run the three tests. Test #1: is there a relationship between (1) the subject and (3) the reason? If your brash talk rings true to customers, then it passes this test. We could argue the point, I think. Classically, in logic, you have to ask “for whom?” Consider the black stick, it’s a pen, because who sees it as one? I’m sure for some customers, Legere’s brash talk “rings true.” For all of them? I doubt it. (I’m one; he’s not impressing me.)
Test #2: if (3) is true, then (2) must be true. So, if something rings true for a customer, must you gain market share? I don’t think so; all we need to do is find one person, who even though they think Legere might be right, is put off his profanity (a fundamental Christian perhaps) and doesn’t switch to T-mobile. Or, even easier, find someone who might think Legere is right, but perhaps they already have a contract with Sprint, so that they don’t change due to the financial penalty of doing so. Or consider my friend, who went into the T-mobile store with me a few days ago and didn’t sign up with them because he didn’t want to buy a new iPhone (regardless of whether anything Legere says rings true or not).
What about test #3? If (2) is not true, then (3) must not be true. This one is even more clear: if you don’t gain market share, is it because your brash talk didn’t ring true to customers? As if any brash talk, as long as it’s true, would achieve its desired effect. To be honest, any time I’ve talked trash, true or not, it didn’t get me what I was trying to get (just the low opinion of others).
So what’s going on? Why the sudden interest (at least from Fast Company) in brash-talking CEOs? My guess is that some of them are getting away with it. If it’s “working” though, the reason why it’s working is because they’re doing something else. It is interesting though that there is a component of telling the truth here; perhaps customers are responding to hearing someone tell the truth. But is that the cause for more market share? That is, has anyone ever told the truth and lost market share?
So the real reason why these companies are reaching success is because they did or are providing a valuable service to their customers. My sister switched us because T-mobile convinced her in the long run it would be cheaper. So we’ll see if Mr. Legere’s “brash talk” continues to lead to T-mobile to success, or if–I’m predicting–Mr. Legere gets himself into trouble with his brash talk some time in the future and starts to take a different tact.