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The Cluetrain Manifesto

by Locke, Christopher / Levine, Rick / Searls, Doc / Weinberger, David
Perseus Books, 1/00

Talk with any marketing executive and you'll hear about reaching a "target audience", "target market", or desired "demographic". A cover story in Internet World magazine describes our children as a "multi-billion dollar market". On the internet, web sites compete for your attention and consider you as no more than a pair of eyeballs to be attracted to the bait. Advertising companies like DoubleClick rank your attractiveness as a consumer by tracking your movements across web sites. They use the information collected about you to market their service as "targeted advertising".

When was the last time you felt like an Eyeball or a Target? Have you ever woke up and thought "I'm a pretty special Consumer"? No? I didn't think so.

People are not market segments, nor demographic data points, and we are certainly not just eyeballs. Maybe, at one time, these models of consumer behavior were useful because, by and large, we were predictable. Our spending patterns were easily tracked and our choices were limited. (Henry Ford offered us a car in any color we wanted--as long as it was black.) I believe that we've evolved to the point where our collective identity, our idea of WHO WE ARE, is more multidimensional than the label "consumer". We've grown more sophisticated and better able to discern an advertising pitch from a heart-felt message. Tired of being talked-down to, millions of us are turning to the internet for a richly flavored and personal experience. We're not just looking for more sights and sounds--most significantly, we turn to the internet to find EACH OTHER.

The Cluetrain Manifesto, elaborately describes this shift in consciousness. This book is a wakeup call to corporations whose primary mode of communicating is "the pitch" (to customers), and the "memorandum" (to employees). The authors describe how advances in communication technology (especially the internet) are enabling people to know more about a company, its pricing and policies than ever before. This level of transparency is catching corporate leaders off-guard. In the eyes of customers, the corporate voice "seems as contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th century French court".

[1] Internet World, Clicking with Kids: A multibillion dollar market nobody's cracked. Feb 1, 2000, p66.

Book review by Tony Cecala, Ph.D.