For businesses built on the power of communication, the advertising
and marketing industries often display an appalling lack of acumen in
From ads that fail to communicate any essential or honest brand message
to marketers who fail to recognise that communication embraces
everything from the design of their store fronts to the
user-friendliness of their packaging, it's a fundamental issue.
And for the past couple of years, too, there has been a whole new
channel of communication between companies and their consumers - the
As this week's feature on The Cluetrain Manifesto on page 20 highlights,
new media means that customer communications is no longer a one-way
The ubiquity of the web means consumers can now discover much more about
a company and can share that knowledge with other consumers around the
world. Cluetrain is based on the premise that markets are built up of
this sort of communication - conversations between brands and customers,
between the customers themselves, between customers and employees and
The key to unlocking the commercial potential of these conversations is
for companies to take part in them honestly and humanely.
Well, that's the theory. The issue for marketers, though, is whether
this new channel of communication poses a threat to their brand equity
or really does offer a new opportunity to learn about consumers and
enter into meaningful conversations with them. The problem with
Cluetrain is that it's all too easy to dismiss it as a tree-hugging
Americanism, but to write it off as such is to miss some very sound
At its most fundamental, Cluetrain is concerned with how to build
customer relationships in the new-media environment and that's something
companies around the world have already invested billions of pounds in.
Cluetrain's view, though, is that all this investment will count for
nothing unless companies begin to understand how to communicate with
their customers as people rather than a means to the bottom line.