Issue #82 When AI doesn’t matter

Remember the late 90’s dot-com boom? All you had to do to take a company public was slap a .com at the end of the name and, voila, IPO.

Which made at least one oil company mad and begs the question,

Is the same thing happening in tech today?

More on that in a second.


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Before the bubble burst, it was cool to be a tech company.


So… one of the big oil companies (I think it was ExxonMobil, but I can’t find a reference) called themselves a tech company.

They were peeved that all their assets were getting no stock price love while diapers.com skyrocketed without so much as a wipe.

Everybody wanted to be a tech company, so ExxonMobil claimed they were one. It didn’t help.

(And then the market crashed, and being an oil company was much cooler than being a tech company, anyway, so I guess they deleted all references to Exxon Techco.)

So here’s the question that came to us the other day: Should you build AI into your
product to sell more?

And the answer, well, it’s complicated.

Because, yeah, just like tech in the ’90s, AI is cool today; not new, mind you, but
cool.

So, will AI help you sell more? Well… consider these croissants:

Does making them with AI make the croissants on the right more appetizing?

Of course not.

On the other hand, consider adding AI to Microsoft Word:

Is the one on the right more attractive?

Sure… (as long as it’s not Clippy 📎 )

The difference is the customer experience. If you can reasonably improve the experience using AI, then now would be a good time to act, by all means, AI-ify your product and market the bejesus out of it.

But even though AI is hot right now, if it doesn’t change the customer experience, splashing it across your marketing won’t do anything for you.

You’ll end up making claims nobody cares about, wishing you were selling diapers (like ExxonMobil).

Now, that doesn’t mean you don’t use AI. There are smart croissant ovens. They help bakers make better croissants. And ExxonMobil used a lot of technology to find and process oil more efficiently.

If you make better croissants or cheaper oil or deliver better service, more people will buy your product, and you’ll make more money. But the buyer doesn’t care how you made it. And ultimately, once the fad is over, it’s the quality of the customer experience that matters.

Just ask the now non-existent diapers.com team.

So, if AI helps you work better, use it to deliver a better service and sell the better service, not the AI.

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