Hey Elon: cursing out your customers never works

New York Times

Elon Musk says he is sorry he amplified an antisemitic post on X. But at a New York Times event, here’s what he said about advertisers like Disney, who have since left the platform (the “Bob” in this quote is Disney Chairman Bob Iger):

If somebody’s gonna try to blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me with money? Go fuck yourself. Go. Fuck. Yourself. Is that clear? I hope it is. Hey, Bob, if you’re in the audience . . . What I care about is the reality of goodness, not the perception of it. And what I see all over the place is people who care about looking good while doing evil. Fuck them.

How can the world’s richest businessman misunderstand how business works?

Forgive the obvious nature of what I am about to write — you would think the world’s richest businessman would understand it.

A business succeeds to the extent that it give customers what they want at a price they’re willing to pay. Not a huge revelation, there.

Who are the customers of X?

Not the people reading the tweets. Very few of them are paying.

Advertisers are the customers.

In any primarily ad-supported media business, including social media, the business must attract readers’ attention, and then sell that attention to advertisers. If there are enough readers and the ads are able to be effective, the media business succeeds. If not, it fails.

Unlike SpaceX, this is not rocket science.

X has now created an environment that advertisers find hostile. X owner Musk is a big contributor to that hostility. The ads were never that effective in the first place. If your customers no longer like your product or find it useful, they leave. Obviously.

Browbeating customers is a bad strategy, no matter what business you are in. It may make Musk feel better, but it isn’t going to bring his advertiser-customers back.

At Tesla, Musk skillfully gave customers what they wanted. Why is it so hard for him to understand that telling customers to fuck off isn’t going to help at X?

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  1. One theory I heard is that he’s trying to to lose money for some massive tax write-off. I’m sure that employees, users, and customers will get out of the Elon business. I for one won’t buying anything from his companies.


  2. He thoroughly believes that no press is bad press, and he trades in extremes (getting more extreme by the minute), like today’s Cybertruck delivery launch being “It will be the biggest product launch of anything by far on Earth this year.”

    Admittedly whatever he says does get everyone talking about him, but I doubt Elon disciples are going to pay enough as a whole to make up for the lost revenue of even a SINGLE large advertiser.

  3. Sometime you have to get to NO to get to YES. There are just times you have to take a stand and draw the line. If he was polite about it – it would have never made the impact.

    If he did the expected, he wouldn’t be Elon and we wouldn’t be thinking about inhabiting another planet. All the people who like their safe little worlds and safe words should be thankful there is someone with the inability to accept the status quo and has the drive to create tomorrow.

    I’d rather salt and pepper language than just existing to exist.