The Cluetrain Manifesto: still relevant

The Cluetrain Manifesto first appeared in 1999

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The Cluetrain Manifesto first slapped me in the face in 2002. I ran across this quote again just yesterday. It still stings:

The question is whether, as a company, you can afford to have more than an advertising-jingle persona. Can you put yourself out there: say what you think in your own voice, present who you really are, show what your really care about? Do you have any genuine passion to share? Can you deal with such honesty? Such exposure? Human beings are often magnificent in this regard, while companies, frankly, tend to suck. For most large corporations, even considering these questions – and they’re being forced to do so by both Internet and intranet – is about as exciting as the offer of an experimental brain transplant.”

Christopher Locke, The Cluetrain Manifesto, December 2000

It still rings true, doesn’t it – especially so soon after watching and re-watching so many Super Bowl commercials. Replace the bit about “intranet” with “social media,” and you can see how timely Locke’s message still is today.

If you catch yourself thinking or writing in the conventions of traditional marketing, I highly recommend you read or re-read it. (Oh go on, it’s free!)

Did the Manifesto affect the way you looked at marketing?
Please comment at the end of this post.

The Manifesto had been picking up steam for a couple years…

… before I discovered it. What an awakening. It captured, organized and made sense of loose thoughts that had knocked around my head since the late ’80s. I had been having serious misgivings about the relevancy and effectiveness of advertising. Of course, I still appreciated advertising’s power. But too many things made no sense.

You could feel the power of the Internet, but Internet-based marketing was still a side show. Programmers and not marketers were in charge of digital development, and marketers and CEOs didn’t seem to care. Ad agencies had been shying away from technology clients, though tech was the market’s most vibrant sector. Agencies were still using 1980s messaging conventions well into the new century. Media was overpriced and ineffective. (You could pay $100,000 a month for a so-so billboard placement along the central freeway in San Francisco.) Agencies underperformed for their clients, and quite often seemed not to have their client’s needs at heart.

Maybe Manifesto rang true for me in 2002 and again in 2011 because it’s today’s version of a universal truth:

Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you‘re saying.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, sounding like a 21st Century consumer.  (Thanks to Paula Williams, The Highly Evolved B.S. Meter of the 21st Century Consumer,  blogging at Forbes)

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