Just as the Catholic Church once unsuccessfully preached to Luther, traditional companies are now broadcasting their messages to customers in a similarly futile manner. Instead of interacting with their markets, they chose to abide by their own set of conventional rules, not conducive to today’s changing markets.
The Cluetrain Manifesto is a set of 95 theses examining the impact of the Internet on corporations and their markets. Written ten years ago by Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger, this forward thinking piece called for “the end of business as usual,” predicting many changes in consumer-corporation relationships that proved truthful over the course of the last decade.
Though we appreciate the obviousness of the Manifesto’s authors in “hammering” in its comparison to Luther’s quest for religious freedom, 95 theses was a little excessive for the few solid points they wanted to make. Thus, after much consolidation, I give you the 9 main theses you can use to nail onto the door of the corporate firewall.
1. Markets are conversations between people, facilitated and empowered by the Internet. They are becoming smarter, more organized, and more informed, constantly looking to fellow members for information, rather than the companies themselves.
2. Markets have changed from the traditional distant audience to a networked person-to-person community with which companies can communicate directly. Because of this tight-knit community, loyalty can easily shift from one brand to another.
3. Consumers create the marketplace. They have the power. Companies are only invited if they interact on the same level and speak the same language.
4. Traditional companies’ voices are dry, homogenized, and contrived; they do not sound like the real people in their market. They need to understand human mannerisms to be able to interact with their market.
5. Companies must belong to the community they are targeting and participate in human-like discourse.
6. Intranets organize employees and encourage all participants to generate and share critical knowledge. Companies must resist the urge to heavily restrict.
7. Companies need to let the employees inside the company interact with the market outside, since both are human, speak the same language, and strive for human interaction.
8. On the Internet, hyperlinks subvert hierarchy, allowing the consumer to navigate freely between pages and links without following an assigned path from the owner.
9. The structure of companies is now also “hyperlinked” instead of “hierarchical;” giving respect to people who earn it through superior work, rather than people who sit at the top of the food chain.