CluetrainPlus10 – Thesis 17

Companies that assume online markets are the same markets that used to watch their ads on television are kidding themselves.

As many will probably say about The Cluetrain Manifesto, it’s almost scary how precient it was. To put it into perspective, when the authors were writing Cluetrain, Google had less than a dozen employees and has just moved out of a garage. The word “blog” had yet to be used to describe a chronological website. Napster hadn’t shattered the media industry yet. And statistics put the number of people on the Internet at just about 150 million, or around 10% of the current number.

Christopher Locke, Rick Levine, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger put together an amazing set of principles that are even more relevant today than they were 10 years ago.  The sad part about Thesis 17, in particular, is that companies haven’t yet learned this lesson. Some of them are trying, with standouts like Zappos. But far too many companies are failing to see the benefits of participatory marketing and extreme customer service.

The market is no longer passive. Almost no one under the age of 35 these days interacts with products in the way the older generation did…we expect to be involved in our consumption, connected to it. We ask friends, we poll our social networks, we take recommendations of the people we know very seriously. We have to love both the object and the process or we just don’t buy. And loving means becoming involved, knowing more, interacting with the makers, asking questions, and otherwise being active.

We want a relationship with our products, and producers who try to feed us advertising may be ok short-term, but the days of the passive are over. The new market is fragmented and participatory, and content producers will have to adjust or die. Making a better product isn’t enough. The companies that will thrive in the coming years are the ones that understand and cultivate the one-to-one relationships with their customers and their potential customers.

This post is a part of the larger CluetrainPlus10 project. Follow other reflections on the Cluetrain there!


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