EDITORIAL: Cluetrain's view on jaded consumers

For businesses built on the power of communication, the advertising

and marketing industries often display an appalling lack of acumen in

this area.

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

between employees.

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

marketing thinking.

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.