Imaginary Deadlines, or the Danger of a Nice, Round Number

April 23, 2015

By Michael Berberich

In my free time, I write and perform music. And like any good millennial musician, my act has a Facebook fan page (and a Twitter handle and a SoundCloud page, and… you get it). Thanks to Facebook’s fan page algorithm, content is distributed to less than 10 percent of the fan base, so every new “like” is valuable. However, for some reason I found I only celebrated the “important” milestones, like reaching 400 fans. Why 400? That’s… a good question, actually.

My 400th fan wasn’t a record executive or a musical idol, so why did I consider it a “special” achievement? It’s a round number, of course! Look at all those zeros! The truth is, round numbers seem orderly, and are easy to remember, so we project a certain importance to them. For that same reason, we like memorable deadlines, like the first or last of the month, the Ides of March, whatever. And this is all fine, until these “important” dates interfere with the real-world needs of your brand.

I won’t name names, but recently a major global brand rehauled the websites for several of its properties, and when they were asked if they’d do anything differently if given the chance, the project lead responded, “My team was in the office almost the entire time between Christmas and New Year’s because someone decided we needed to launch on January 1, even though none of our clients would be at work to see it. I’d have fought back harder against ‘imaginary deadlines.’” Debuting on New Year’s Day sounds great on paper, and was probably very satisfying to announce at meetings, but the launch date added zero value to the project, and I’d be willing to bet it made a team full of coders and engineers a little less enthusiastic about the company they work for.

Everyone likes nice round numbers and that’s not going to change. Don’t expect to see brands celebrating their 47th Anniversary any time soon. However, it’s important for business leaders (and everyone, frankly) to remember that their importance is very much “imaginary,” and shouldn’t be put before the real-world need of your brand or your employees. 

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