The Cluetrain Manifesto
I have to admit that The Cluetrain Manifesto, tackles a subject that has really been resonating with me lately. Cluetrain’s premise is that the internet is fundamentally changing the way business functions. Written by Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls and David Weinberger way back in 1999, the manifesto’s prophecy still seems to be extremely relevant. Yes it is dated, but forget that they don’t mention blogs, rss feeds, or other revolutions taking place online today. Those recent advances should point you to the conclusion that these rebels were on to something big that continues to change our world today. If you aren’t familiar with The Cluetrain Manifesto, you can get a decent sample from www.cluetrain.com. There you will find the first chapter of the book as well as the 95 theses it is based on.
Cluetrain says that companies will cease to exist unless they learn to speak to their customers in a human voice. This really is a monumental task that flies in the face of decades of brand theory and traditional guerilla marketing. Another theme that is hammered throughout the book is that the internet has introduced a powerful new force into the marketplace: the human voice. We were talking about this a couple weeks ago on Clinton’s post in relation to the power of blogs. To quote myself (I know that’s arrogant, but get over it):
“The voiceless masses that read blogs are finding that they aren?t alone. That may seem trivial, but don?t take it for granted. When a reader finds the courage to make their voice heard, whether in a blog of their own or by leaving a comment, this event is extremely empowering. A community forms. Eventually, what was once the voiceless masses transforms into a mobilized population. I think we are approaching the tipping point where this starts to redefine the institutions of publishing, news, advertising, politics, religion, and entertainment.”
In attempt to push this review into a discussion, more and more sources are saying that advertising is dead. I read an article in Wired last month called The Decline of Brands. (Seth Godin weighs in on that discussion here). That followed on the heals of an article about how the 18-34 male is reinventing advertising. Even if you dismiss all this talk as propaganda, I think it is hard to avoid a conclusion at the very least that advertising is changing. So how does this affect the design community? Do you believe the hype? Is our industry in for a change? Will the new world have a place for design? Or do you just think this whole thing is just a theory to sell books and magazines and make a few authors sound smart?