Bad Coin

While neither a fan of DROdio’s website or the author’s writing style, Dissecting Coin’s Massively Successful Product Launch nevertheless gives me a way in to talk about Coin once again. Last month, shortly after Coin launched to great fanfare, I condensed some of my thoughts into a post titled Thoughts Regarding Coin. I explained the device’s premise, areas I thought it would excel, and those in which I felt it would fail or needed improvement. I did not, however, go into some of my less tangible concerns with the product; specifically, I did not talk about any of my issues with its marketing and pre-launch strategy. Given that Daniel devoted a significant amount of time to this topic in his article though, I feel now is as good a time as any.

Daniel cites urgency and the sense of getting a deal as the third reason behind Coin’s impressive success; personally, I would place those two at the top of my list. After scrolling past a number of tweets about Coin, I finally opened the website. As soon as I did, I saw a banner explaining that early adopters had a very limited window in which to place an order before the price shot up to $100 and availability ceased until sometime in 2014. These two aspects served as the primary motivation behind my eventual purchase, even more so than Coin’s actual value proposition. I didn’t like that then and I like it even less now; it’s shady and dishonest. In search of an apt analogy, I decided this was not unlike actually setting something on fire during a fire drill just to motivate everyone to move faster, only to then reveal the faux emergency as a ploy to beat last month’s evacuation time. If you have a truly great product, don’t resort to questionable marketing tactics and instead let that product be its own marketing. I can’t argue against the effectiveness of this strategy, but I can criticize it nonetheless.

Shady tactics aside though, their tactics would have angered me much less if Coin had actually stuck to its promise. Part of the reason I purchased Coin after so little consideration was the specter of a ticking clock counting down the seconds until I would have missed my opportunity. Nearly a month later though, Coin still has a week left before it’s “early adopter” discount ends, and that’s assuming they actually stick to that date. All things considered, I have my doubts.

Speaking of dishonesty, that $50,000 startup goal — the supposed reason everyone’s credit cards were charged $50 immediately — also appears to have been a sham. At this point it shouldn’t surprise me anymore, but it does, and it annoys me greatly. Part of the appeal in helping fund a conceptual product like Coin is the feeling of having helped bring a product into existence by providing a form of venture capital. Although I cannot speak from experience, I would venture to guess that this is one of the primary reasons Kickstarter has grown so popular as of late. Incidentally, this was an ancillary motivation behind my decision to back Coin. However, Coin shat all over this as well. Shocker. I don’t mind that they continued to take more orders after reaching their goal, but some sort of acknowledgment would have been nice. A simple, “Wow, we fulfilled our initial goal in less than an hour. We’re amazed and humbled by your response to Coin! In order to bring Coin to even more people, we have expanded our initial plans to facilitate even more cards, so be sure to tell your friends!" Fine, that’s all well and good — great, actually; I can get behind this. But when the company says nothing and continues to rake in money hand over fist I have an increasingly harder time believing the entire strategy was designed as nothing more than an elaborate Pebble-esq fundraising ploy where we will not see any return on our investment for years to come.

In the end I don’t regret purchasing a Coin, but the entire affair leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth. How about a little less time talking about preventative measures to make it impossible for waiters to change the card Coin charges for a meal and more time spent on those apparently difficult principles of honesty and communication? I’d back that.