Markets Are Conversations The Cluetrain Manifesto Reading Analysis

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After reading Markets Are Conversations, please answer the following questions:

  1. The Cluetrain Manifesto was written early in the history of mass adoption of online communication. What has changed between the promise of communication online to the reality of where we are currently with online communication?
  2. Do you feel there is a middle ground for marketers that lies between pure, unsolicited communication and marketing messaging? If so, what does that middle ground look like? And if no, articulate why not.
  3. How do you think marketers can utilize the teachings in this chapter, from owned and paid media standpoints?

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6/7/2018 the cluetrain manifesto - chapter four chapter four the following is the complete fourth chapter of The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual Copyright © 1999, 2001 Levine, Locke, Searls & Weinberger. All rights reserved. Polish back to table of contents NEXT: Chapter 5: Hyperlinked organizations Markets Are Conversations Doc Searls and David Weinberger When you think of the Internet, don’t think of Mack trucks full of widgets destined for distributorships, whizzing by countless billboards. Think of a table for two. - @man It was April in Paris, several weeks before a big press conference where my client, a large but rapidly shrinking French computer company, would roll out a wonderful new computer, the first of its kind. The whole project had been veiled in secrecy for years. Security was intense. Code names were used. Deep alliances with Big Players were mentioned only in hushed tones. The company had hired me to develop a strategy for the rollout. In particular, they wanted a "message," one that would serve as a tagline for the event and for all the advertising to follow. A meeting of the company’s marketing communications people was convened for my analysis of the market and a briefing on a strategy that would make the press conference great. The assignment was painfully hopeless. Oh, the new computer was nice and the usual customers would buy it, but the larger market -- the one this company needed to penetrate -- could care less. The company had been too silent too long. With nothing to lose, I told them the truth. "We have three problems," I began. "First, there is no market for your message, least of all among journalists, who want facts and stories. Second, there is no market for your secrecy. You have long ignored the market, now they will choose to ignore you. Third, there really is no market for your press conference. Journalists want to be briefed exclusively." 1/23 6/7/2018 the cluetrain manifesto - chapter four They stared at me. I continued: "Markets are nothing more than conversations. See these magazines? They’re a form of market conversation. We should already be in their stories. We are key to the subject, but we’re missing in action after working in secret for years. Our only hope is to talk. Starting now." I outlined a strategy for igniting as much conversation as possible in a very short time, suggesting some fun, creative, and ultimately pointless ideas. Later, a dozen people came up and thanked me for telling the truth and giving them new hope (although presumably for their next jobs). Then the project manager took me aside and said, "That was brilliant. Now, what’s the tagline?" First Things Last The first markets were markets. Not bulls, bears, or invisible hands. Not battlefields, targets, or arenas. Not demographics, eyeballs, or seats. Most of all, not consumers. The first markets were filled with people, not abstractions or statistical aggregates; they were the places where supply met demand with a firm handshake. Buyers and sellers looked each other in the eye, met, and connected. The first markets were places for exchange, where people came to buy what others had to sell -- and to talk. The first markets were filled with talk. Some of it was about goods and products. Some of it was news, opinion, and gossip. Little of it mattered to everyone; all of it engaged someone. There were often conversations about the work of hands: "Feel this knife. See how it fits your palm." "The cotton in this shirt, where did it come from?" "Taste this apple. We won’t have them next week. If you like it you should take some today." Some of these conversations ended in a sale, but don’t let that fool you. The sale was merely the exclamation mark at the end of the sentence. Market leaders were men and women whose hands were worn by the work they did. Their work was their life, and their brands were the names they were known by: Miller, Weaver, Hunter, Skinner, Farmer, Brewer, Fisher, Shoemaker, Smith. For thousands of years, we knew exactly what markets were: conversations between people who sought out others who shared the same interests. Buyers had as much to say as sellers. They spoke directly to each other without the filter of media, the artifice of positioning statements, the arrogance of advertising, or the shading of public relations. These were the kinds of conversations people have been having since they started to talk. Social. Based on intersecting interests. Open to many resolutions. Essentially unpredictable. Spoken from the center of the self. "Markets were conversations" doesn’t mean "markets were noisy." It means markets were places where people met to see and talk about each other’s work. Conversation is a profound act of humanity. So once were markets. The Industrial Interruption The advent of the Industrial Age did more than just enable industry to produce products much more efficiently. Management’s approach to production and its workers was 2/23 6/7/2018 the cluetrain manifesto - chapter four quickly echoed in its approach to the market and its customers. The economies of scale they were gaining in the factory demanded economies of scale in the market. By the time it was over we had forgotten the one true meaning of the market, and replaced it with industrial substitutes. In The Third Wave, Alvin Toffler wrote that the rise of industry drove an "invisible wedge" between production and consumption, a fact Friedrich Engels had noticed over one hundred years earlier. As production was ramped up to unheard-of rates, the clay pot of craftwork was broken into shards of repetitive tasks that maximized efficiency by minimizing difference: interchangeable workers creating interchangeable products. In the market, consumption also needed to be ramped up -- not just to absorb the increased production of goods, but also to promote people’s willingness to buy the onesize-fits-all products that rolled off mass-production lines. And management wasted little time noticing the parallels in efficiencies they could achieve all along the productionconsumption chain. If products and workers were interchangeable, then interchangeable consumers began to look pretty good too. The goal was simple. Customers had to be convinced to desire the same thing, the same Model-T in any color, so long as it’s black. And if workers could be better organized through the repetitive nature of their tasks, so customers were more easily defined by the collective nature of their tastes. Just as management developed a new organizational model to enhance economies of scale in production, it developed the techniques of mass marketing to do the same for consumption. So the customers who once looked you in the eye while hefting your wares in the market were transformed into consumers. In the words of industry analyst Jerry Michalski, a consumer was no more than "a gullet whose only purpose in life is to gulp products and crap cash." Power swung so decisively to the supply side that "market" became a verb: something you do to customers. In the twentieth century, the rise of mass communications media enhanced industry’s ability to address even larger markets with no loss of shoe leather, and mass marketing truly came into its own. With larger markets came larger rewards, and larger rewards had to be protected. More bureaucracy, more hierarchy, and more command and control meant the customer who looked you in the eye was promptly escorted out of the building by security. The product of mass marketing was the message, delivered in as many forms as there were media and in as many guises as there were marketers to invent them. Delivered locally, shipped globally, repeated inescapably, the business of marketing devoted itself to delivering the message. Unfortunately, the customer never wanted to take delivery. The Shipping View During the Industrial Age, the movement of materials from production to consumption -from flax to linen and from ore to musket -- was a long and complicated process. Potentially vast markets had potentially vast distribution needs. The development of new transportation systems eased the burden, and global systems flourished. Even huge distances could be spanned so that products could be delivered efficiently. Inexorably, business began to understand itself through a peculiar new metaphor: Business is shipping. In this shipping metaphor -- still the heart and soul of business-as-usual -producers package content and move it through a channel, addressed for delivery down a distribution system. 3/23 6/7/2018 the cluetrain manifesto - chapter four The metaphor was effectively applied not just to the movement of physical goods, but also quickly applied to the packaging and delivery of marketing content. It’s no surprise that business came to think of marketing as simply the delivery of a different type of content to consumers. It was efficient to manage, one size could fit many, and the distribution channel -- the new world of broadcast media -- was more than ready to deliver. The symmetry was perfect. The production side of business ships interchangeable products and the marketing side ships interchangeable messages, both to the same market, the bigger and more homogeneous, the better. One problem: there is no demand for messages. The customer doesn’t want to hear from business, thank you very much. The message that gets broadcast to you, me, and the rest of the earth’s population has nothing to do with me in particular. It’s worse than noise. It’s an interruption. It’s the Anti-Conversation. That’s the awful truth about marketing. It broadcasts messages to people who don’t want to listen. Every advertisement, press release, publicity stunt, and giveaway engineered by a Marketing department is colored by the fact that it’s going to a public that doesn’t ask to hear it. Marketers felt this truth in their bones, and learned to cloak their messages, to disguise them as entertainment, to repackage the content as regularly as business learned to vary this year’s product line. Today, we all know and have come to expect this. We are even disappointed if it’s not well done. Commercials disguise themselves as one-act plays, press releases play the part of important stories, and advertising masquerades as education. Marketing became an elaborate game between business and the consumer, but the outcome remained fixed. As sophisticated as marketing became, it has never overcome the ability of people to smell the BS behind all the marketing perfume. It is not hard to understand, then, that "business is shipping" at times felt more like "business is war," another pervasive metaphor. We launch marketing campaigns based on strategies that target markets; we bombard people with messages in order to penetrate markets (and the sexual overtones here shouldn’t be dismissed either). Business-as-usual is in a constant state of war with the market, with the Marketing department manning the front lines. Consider the distance we’ve come. Markets once were places where producers and customers met face-to-face and engaged in conversations based on shared interests. Now business-as-usual is engaged in a grinding war of attrition with its markets. No wonder marketing fails. The Axe in Our Heads Every one of us knows that marketers are out to get us, and we all struggle to escape their snares. We channel-surf through commercials; we open our mail over the recycling bin, struggling to discern the junk mail without having to open the envelope; we resent the adhesion of commercial messages to everything from sports uniforms to escalator risers. We know that the real purpose of marketing is to insinuate the message into our consciousness, to put an axe in our heads without our noticing. Like it or not, they will teach us to sing the jingle and recite the slogan. If the axe finds its mark we toe the line, buy the message, buy the product, and don’t talk back. For the axe of marketing is also meant to silence us, to make conversation in the market as unnecessary as the ox cart. 4/23 6/7/2018 the cluetrain manifesto - chapter four Ironically, many of us spend our days wielding axes ourselves. In our private lives we defend ourselves from the marketing messages out to get us, our defenses made stronger for having spent the day at work trying to drive axes into our customers’ heads. We do both because the axe is already there, the metaphorical embodiment of that wedge Toffler wrote about -- the one that divides our jobs from our lives. On the supply side is the producer; on the demand side is the consumer. In the caste system of industry, it is bad form for the two to exchange more than pleasantries. Thus the system is quietly maintained, and our silence goes unnoticed beneath the noise of marketing-as-usual. No exchange between seller and buyer, no banter, no conversation. And hold the handshakes. When you have the combined weight of two hundred years of history and a trillion-dollar tide of marketing pressing down on the axe in your head, you can bet it’s wedged in there pretty good. What’s remarkable is that now there’s a force potent enough to actually start loosening it. Here’s the voice of a spokesperson from the world of TV itself, Howard Beale, the anchorman in Paddy Chayefsky’s Network who announced that he would commit suicide because "I just ran out of bullshit." Of course, he had to go insane before he could at last utter this truth and pull the axe from his own head. Networked Markets The long silence -- the industrial interruption of the human conversation -- is coming to an end. On the Internet, markets are getting more connected and more powerfully vocal every day. These markets want to talk, just as they did for the thousands of years that passed before market became a verb with us as its object. The Internet is a place. We buy books and tickets on the Web. Not over, through, or beside it. To call it a "platform" belies its hospitality. What happens on the Net is more than commerce, more than content, more than push and pull and clicks and traffic and eanything. The Net is a real place where people can go to learn, to talk to each other, and to do business together. It is a bazaar where customers look for wares, vendors spread goods for display, and people gather around topics that interest them. It is a conversation. At last and again. In this new place, every product you can name, from fashion to office supplies, can be discussed, argued over, researched, and bought as part of a vast conversation among the people interested in it. "I’m in the market for a new computer," someone says, and she’s off to the Dell site. But she probably won’t buy that cool new laptop right away. She’ll ask around first -- on Web pages, on newsgroups, via e-mail: "What do you think? Is this a good one? Has anybody checked it out? What’s the real battery life? How’s their customer support? Recommendations? Horror stories?" "I’m in the market for a good desk dictionary," says someone else, and he’s off to where he’ll find a large number of opinions already expressed: I love the look of this book, and the publisher did a great job; but I made the mistake of buying it without realizing that it was first published over 7 years ago.... I’ve had this book for two days and I keep going back to it. I may not be typical since I collect dictionaries and wanted this when I heard about it last year, but.... 5/23 6/7/2018 the cluetrain manifesto - chapter four Ugh, they don’t have "aegritudo" but they have the "modern" definition of "peruse".... These conversations are most often about value: the value of products and of the businesses that sell them. Not just prices, but the market currencies of reputation, location, position, and every other quality that is subject to rising or falling opinion. It’s nothing new, in one sense. The only advertising that was ever truly effective was word of mouth, which is nothing more than conversation. Now word of mouth has gone global. The one-to-many scope that technology brought to mass production and then mass marketing, which producers have enjoyed for two hundred years, is now available to customers. And they’re eager to make up for lost time. More ominous for marketing-as-usual is this: finding themselves connected to one another in the market doesn’t enable customers just to learn the truth behind product claims. The very sound of the Web conversation throws into stark relief the monotonous, lifeless, self-centered drone emanating from Marketing departments around the world. Word of Web offers people the pure sound of the human voice, not the elevated, empty speech of the corporate hierarchy. Further, these voices are telling one another the truth based on their real experiences, unlike the corporate messages that aim at presenting what we can generously call a best-case scenario. Not only can the market discover the truth in the time it takes to do a search at a discussion archive, but the tinny, selfabsorbed voices of business-as-usual sound especially empty in contrast to the rich conversations emanating from the Web. What’s more, networked markets get smart fast. Metcalfe’s Law*, a famous axiom of the computer industry, states that the value of a network increases as the square of the number of users connected to it -- connections multiply value exponentially. This is also true for conversations on networked markets. In fact, as the network gets larger it also gets smarter. The Cluetrain Corollary: the level of knowledge on a network increases as the square of the number of users times the volume of conversation. So, in market conversations, it is far easier to learn the truth about the products being pumped, about the promises being made, and about the people making those promises. Networked markets are not only smart markets, but they’re also equipped to get much smarter, much faster, than business-as-usual. Business-as-usual doesn’t realize this because it continues to conceptualize markets as distant abstractions -- battlefields, targets, demographics -- and the Net as simply another conduit down which companies can broadcast messages. But the Net isn’t a conduit, a pipeline, or another television channel. The Net invites your customers in to talk, to laugh with each other, and to learn from each other. Connected, they reclaim their voice in the market, but this time with more reach and wider influence than ever. When Push Comes to Suck The reluctance of business-as-usual to break out of its set way of thinking was perhaps epitomized best by the Web’s own infatuation with "push technology." This reached its zenith in May, 1997, when Wired, the computer industry’s utopian fashion monthly, boldly declared its wish to supplant the Web with media more suited to advertising. In its customary overstatement and retinal-torture colors, the magazine devoted its cover and following eleven pages to "PUSH! Kiss your browser Goodbye: The radical future of media beyond the Web." According to the article, the Web was already too demanding for the average spud, so Wired wanted your inner couch potato to enjoy "a more full 6/23 6/7/2018 the cluetrain manifesto - chapter four bodied experience that combines many of the traits of networks with those of broadcast. Seinfeld viewers know what we’re talking about," the authors wrote. Ever since the Web showed up, business-as-usual has desperately tried to pipe-weld it onto the back end of TV’s history. The money ...
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Markets are Conversations




Markets are Conversations
“The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business As Usual” describes the evolution of
marketing from its inception in an actual market where the only way to talk to customers was to
talk to them face to face. Back then, a brand was an individual seller’s name, and the only way to
gain customer’s attention and feedback was to talk to them directly. Industrialization changed the
dynamic of the market by herding customers into groups of people with similar ideas. Their
definition changed from individuals in the market place to a group of people who were addressed
as a single entity who were expected to consume standardized products. However, the onset of
the internet changed the dyna...

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