Billy Mumy as Anthony in episode 73 of The Twilight Zone.
Like Anthony in episode 73 of The Twilight Zone, some companies dream of sending critics to the cornfield. PHOTO: CBS

Sit down, please. This is going to come as a shock to everyone involved in marketing, promoting or pitching a product or service.

Not everything is awesome.

Not your new product release, not that platform upgrade you deluded yourself into thinking is the "most innovative advancement" in the history of the planet, not your latest "magical solution," not even that celebrity-fueled conference you just enticed hundreds (or thousands) to attend.

And here's a corollary to also remember:

Smart people don't drink their own Kool-Aid.

They accept reality. They understand customers and critics and even tech journalists will question marketing speak, raise doubts about stated claims, suggest everything isn't actually as peachy as a Georgia cobbler in August and — gasp! — actually do some critical analysis.

The truth, you see, will not only set everyone free but may also force your company to work harder, dig deeper and maybe evolve from repackaging a bunch of stuff you were already selling under other names to developing something that ultimately could be both innovative and, dare I say, awesome.

OMG! I've Hurt Your Feelings

I know. You worked hard. The whole product team worked hard. Your CEO and CMO and COO and CCO and every other senior leader, guru, evangelist and advocate in your company worked hard.

So why can't everyone just give you a shout out for the platform that doesn't really work as intended or the integration that keeps hitting a snag or the thing that was supposed to make all of our lives better … but doesn't?

Because it's silly and disingenuous, and frankly, annoying. And — duh! — not everyone wants to live in a world of fake news and alternate facts.

Some of us don't want to go around pretending everything is real fine like the terrorized town people in episode 73 of The Twilight Zone.

We push back when we sense an organization is lying — and intrinsically believe it's more important to ask "what" and "why" than excitedly reiterating "wow!" all the time.

Still, I understand how we got here.

You Did It!

My kids grew up in the era of participation trophies — when showing up was actually considered as much of an accomplishment as doing or thinking.

As someone who regularly had her knuckles cracked in a parochial school for doing egregious things like using the wrong color ink, this was pretty amazing.

It didn't matter if the kids were playing after school sports or answering questions in a geography bee: The minute they missed the ball or concluded Montana was part of Canada, an effervescent cheering squad of school staff and helicopter parents would swoop in with an excuse.

  • "Oh, anyone would have missed that ball ..." (Even though an amateur could see it was a meatball, a pitch deliciously placed right down the middle of the plate.)
  • "Montana! No one realizes that's actually part of North Dakota … " (Wait. What?)

In contrast, I learned as a pup that saying "the dog ate my homework" — even when it was true — would result in more angst and aggravation than just completing the work.

So excuses were as foreign to me as properly crisp-cooked vegetables. They were just never served in my formidable years.

But here we were, a bunch of hapless parents rearing kids in the 1990s, wondering when reality had shifted from fact to feelings. This was the decade when then-candidate Bill Clinton argued that he never inhaled and Defense Attorney Johnnie Cochran won a landmark case on the strength of his claim, "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit!"

I didn't do it. 

Let's find someone to blame!

Armed with a copy of "Driven to Distraction" in one hand and "You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!" in the other, we gave our kids — and ourselves — the ultimate excuse of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Since 1997 there has been a clear upward trend in national estimates of parent-reported ADHD diagnoses, according to the US Centers for Disease Control.

Excuses, Excuses

But hold on. Can 11 percent of all US children — and countless more adults — actually have ADHD, as the CDC reports? Or are we just trying to build excuses into our collective consciousness?

Excuses are pretty handy.

Rather than say, "We prematurely released news about a product or service that wasn't ready for prime time," we say, "You (the customer, critic or tech journalist) shouldn't have shared any information about it."

Rather than admit, "We failed to gate our content so anyone was able to listen to our Culture Mom explain the inner workings of our company," we say, "You (the customer, critic or tech journalist) shouldn't have listened."

Rather than agree, "Some of our customers are having trouble with our products or services," we say, "You (the customer, critic or tech journalist) didn't talk to the hand-picked customers we told you could offer 100 percent positive reviews."

We Like You!

In 1984 Sally Fields delivered an iconic line during her best actress acceptance speech for an Academy Award. “You like me,” she declared. “Right now, you like me.”

Who doesn't want to be liked and admired — even those of us with those tough, scrappy exteriors who pretend it doesn't hurt when the thorns draw blood?

But let's be clear: People are not the product or service they represent (except perhaps Uber CEO Travis Kalanick … we'll make an exception for him).

Stop taking every question, every critical comment about the things you sell as a personal attack. We're just doing our part to figure out the facts.

With a nod to songwriter Carole King, I'll close now with these words of wisdom, "Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes the truth gets a hold of you … Just when you thought you had (pulled the wool over everyone's eyes) made it."

Lighten up, folks. We're all just trying to do our jobs.