All Aboard! The Cluetrain is Still a Good Ride Even After All These Years

The clue train stopped there [Silicon Valley] four times a day for ten years and they never took delivery.”— Veteran of a firm now free-falling out of the Fortune 500

Years ago, when I was learning about International Shoe Co. and Personal Jurisdiction my brother was knee deep in the 95 Theses of The Cluetrain Manifesto. He was pioneering the social media, er, blogging strategy for an exploding startup, and he told me, “this is a foundational book.” He was right.

Cluetrain is the basis for the conversation that we’ve been having about Web 2.0 and social media for the last decade. The whole notion of listening, engaging and relating to our customers is drawn straight from the text of Cluetrain. If you haven’t read it, do it.

In preparation for my digital media marketing class this fall, I decided to begin the class with the foundation of the 95 Theses.  In last night’s class, I culled out a dozen of my favorites:

With over a decade in practice, I think the theses present some utopian views that have been tested and found impractical. However, Doc Searls assertion that “Markets are Conversations” certainly still rings true.

If you have read the 95 Theses, what are some of your favorites?

Jeremy Floyd

Jeremy Floyd is the President at FUNYL Commerce. Formerly, he was the CEO and President of Lirio, Bluegill Creative, a marketing and communications firm in Knoxville, Tennessee. In addition to managing the digital strategies, Floyd was an adjunct professor for the University of Tennessee Chattanooga MBA program teaching digital strategies and social media. Floyd blogs at and tweets under the name @jfloyd. Jeremy is licensed to practice law in the State of Tennessee and holds a law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from MTSU in English and Philosophy.

  • Katy Whittle

    I had two favorite theses from the Cluetrain Manifesto. They said, “To speak with a human voice, companies must share the concerns of their communities” and “But first, they must belong to a community.” It is so easy for companies to think of those outside their firewall as customers, investors, manufacturers, etc. However if companies were to think of those people as their “community”, they might have an easier time with the conversation.
    Being a member of a community means involving yourself with their concerns, working to make a difference, and being an active supporter of your community, in one way or another. For a company to become an active member in its community, whether that be the literal location of the business or the community created by its customers, investors, etc, they must actively contribute to solving problems of that community. The more active an employer is involved, the stronger human voice it will have. People would much rather talk and do business with a company that strives to better their community. Companies that have not made it a priority to be a part of a community are setting themselves up for failure.

  • I like your definition of community: “Being a member of a community means involving yourself with their concerns, working to make a difference, and being an active supporter of your community, in one way or another.”

    Boiling it down, it sounds like “care.” To be in a community is to “care.” Saying that you care is one thing, doing it is another. When I brought up the example of “@comcastcares” in class, the immediate reaction was that “they don’t.” But the story of Frank Eliason shows that regardless of how cliche it has become, at one time, Frank truly “cared,” which has made him a customer service rockstar.

    What really makes you feel grimy is when a company feigns caring. Have you ever received an email: “Dear {First Name}: You are really important to us…” Ick.

  • Chris Kerr

    I enjoyed Thesis #44: “Companies typically install intranets top-down to distribute HR policies and other corporate information that workers are doing their best to ignore.”

    More than 10 years later, #44 still rings true, or rather, is very slowly being learned. Amidst mandatory compliance training, ‘noteworthy’ policy changes, and dress code reminders, my company’s intranet fit the profile.

    However, just recently, some employees have more than doubled the number of viewers with conversational and humorous content. Very casual ‘get-to-know the CEO’ interviews are making their way to employees, complete with outtakes. Fake news stories published on April 1st quickly became a yearly tradition and suddenly the intranet doesn’t feel so bad. Moving forward, my vote is to start allowing employees to post comments.

  • Google tried “Wave” a few years ago to build corporate momentum around collaboration. It was definitely bottom up, but the interface was SO quirky that the wave went to see.

    Glad to hear the lighthearted approach. One of my clients uses their intranet basically to post their internal video interviews of employees in disparate locations. It’s pretty cool for everyone to get to know a little about each other. Of course, they could just friend each other on Facebook. 🙂

  • carolyn.shope

    #87 We’d like it if you got whats going on here. That’d be realnice. But it would be a big mistake to think we’re holding our breath.
    THis made me think of my fellow boomers that are just not getting it. THey won’t use social media and they want to protect themselves. They use the internet to do some things but are blind to how much time they can save, how much more they can do and that so much of their data is public anyhow, for example there are camera’s everywhere so they are on the internet without realizing it. Its just not the fear of facebook anninomity that holds them back but the lack of knowledge as to using the internet as their personal marketing tool. I understand my mom’s age group being apprehensive, although my mom is savvy because of me getting her thruogh the scary part. Her friends always comment to me that I created a “monster”….LOL

  • Check out this Fast Company
    article I found this morning:

  • Katy Whittle

    Our intranet is a little better because they do employee spotlights where we get backgrounds and candid interviews with different members of the company. Also if someone in the company does something interesting (for instance our treasurer competed in the Mud Run 5K), they they will spotlight that story. Overall the intranet is still top-down, but you can appreciate they are trying to make it engaging and more real.

  • Judy Vega

    I agree that much of what the Cluetrain Manifesto represents holds true today. However, I feel
    that the lack of communication between –well – pretty much everyone within an
    organization has many contributing factors. On that note, one of my favorite
    thesis statements was #77:

    “You’re too
    busy “doing business” to answer our email? Oh gosh, sorry, gee, we’ll
    come back later. Maybe.”

    I feel that, with the massive surge of information
    and electronic communication channels, people have lost sight of the reality of
    many things. Before, we would get angry because management was never in their
    office and we could never meet face-to-face. And then, low-and-behold, e-mail
    was invented. This was the greatest thing since sliced bread! Oh, but wait; now
    management is too busy to answer e-mails because they have to tend to multiple
    channels of communication. Now they have videoconferencing, corporate instant
    messaging programs, personal meetings, conference calls, etc. While the
    technological phenomena that we are currently experiencing is nothing short of
    amazing, it greatly impacts social skills as well as demanding a whole new perspective
    on time management and allocation. I think companies are too wrapped-up in the
    social media/networking aspect and need to focus more on their employees and
    building stronger relationships within
    the organization BEFORE stepping out and building them with the community.

    Another of my favorite thesis statements sort of
    goes hand-in-hand with my above rant: #25:

    need to come down from their Ivory Towers and talk to the people with whom they
    hope to create relationships.”

    a company to succeed, they have to have employees that actually WANT to be there and have customers believing
    in what they stand for, produce, or sell (or, these days, all three).. Without the
    employee and customer support, a company becomes a fish out of water and the
    chance of survival is scarce.

  • Sam Knight

    I agree with Katie, #34, “To speak with a human voice, companies must share the concerns of their communities” is a favorite of mine. This speaks so well to what companies are experiencing in the past few years with the internet and social media. If companies aren’t visible on either the internet or social media, then the company remains a mystery to us. Companies with social media have a human voice, they have the ability to talk to consumers directly without the customer service phone call on hold. But it’s really how they are using this social media to become “humanized”. Like I said in class, Chick-fil-A’s CEO was speaking to an exclusive audience, The Baptist Press, I believe this is the original article — One statement then exploded on social media and the community he was speaking to grew into millions. Though some were upset and infuriated, the CFA CEO was speaking with his own voice and expressing is own opinion, a human voice.
    I also found #74 “We are immune to advertising. Just forget it.” very interesting because when most people think of marketing they think advertising. And many problems in marketing are related with money spent on advertising, the executives want to see the ROI and want to see the conversions. I would be interested to see if we got rid of advertising all together and see if anyone bought anything or for that matter knew of any new products that come out. Advertising is continually changing with the technology, but it may not be fast enough.

  • I think people pay attention to what they want to pay attention to. In an increasing age of distraction, the “shiniest” tend to get the most use.

    Personally, texts and tweets work well for communication because the character limitation forces the writer to think about what they are trying to say rather than blather on ad nauseum via email. Sometimes so much is oversaid via email that it becomes and endless pursuit to get through emails. So, I really love the likes of Yammer and Chatter in corporate structures.

  • My mom, on the other hand, refuses to even look at an iPad/computer, and if I send her a text she says it “breaks her phone” Ha!

  • So, keep the Dan Cathy story in mind while reading Here Comes Everybody. Specifically, focus on the Trent Lott story, and then let’s discuss this again.

    Are you familiar with Seth Godin? As an owner of a marketing firm, I’m all too familiar with the “merger” of marketing and advertising in the mind of my customers, but truly they are not one in the same. I think even in cluetrain the excerpts about Intention vs. Attention address this differences between the too.

  • Sam Knight

    I will keep that in mind, looking forward to what the Lott story entails. I’m slightly familiar with Godin, I’ve wanted to read his “All Marketers Tell Stories” book. I do agree that marketing and advertising are definitely different and from working in a digital marketing firm this summer, it became obvious that it’s challenging to bring those two together and to making advertising purposeful. I’ll keep a close eye on the intention vs. attention in cluetrain.

  • Lindsay Manning

    This makes me think of my side job, creating video user guide DVD’s on how to set up and use land line telephones for the hard-of-hearing. The idea is to make the phones easier to put together, but I don’t think the company is totally keeping its end users in mind. I always think: if the little old hard-of-hearing lady at home doesn’t know how to plug in a landline phone, I doubt she knows how to work a DVD player that will show her how. Then if she has questions, she has to call customer service… with a phone that hasn’t been set up yet…

  • Lindsay Manning

    I like what you said: “I would be interested to see if we got rid of advertising
    all together and see if anyone bought anything or for that matter knew
    of any new products that come out.”

    I know for me, personally, I always mute TV commercials now. I think
    the BEST advertising, the thing that makes me go out of my way to go
    find a product, is word of mouth by friends. When I was putting my baby
    registry together, the only things I added to the list were things my
    friends owned and recommended. If there were no advertising anywhere
    anymore, I’m not sure that would affect the products I buy. Ads annoy
    me. Sometimes I feel like I don’t want to buy something because I think
    they try too hard to sell it to me.

    If it’s a good product, it seems like reviews and word of mouth will advertise for itself.

  • Lindsay Manning

    One of my favorites was #29: “Elvis said it best: We can’t go on together with suspicious
    Every healthy relationship is based on trust, including seller-consumer relationships. Trust is one of those things that takes forever to make, and just a second to break.
    I read somewhere that if someone has a good experience with a company, they might tell one person. But if they have a bad experience, they will tell 7. Something like that. Does anyone else know that statistic? Anyway, with the growth of social media and instantaneous public feedback, that is a huge incentive for companies to get it right the first time.

  • This is a really important point. There is only a thin line (if there is a line at all) between social media and word of mouth marketing.

    The problem with advertising is that it is unwanted and interruptive, but in your example, you were truly at a point of need–looking for information from other moms on what products are truly needed (BTW I hope that a bumbo made it on that list). So, their feedback was invited. Even if a vendor is part of the conversation and inserts genuine feedback that is non-interruptive, it is perhaps received well.

    I like this thread. I would like for someone to take a pro-mass-advertising position and jump in here. Hint, hint…

  • I always heard the “rule of begets” one positive experience begets 4 positive promotions, and one negative experience begets 40 detractors. I poked around on Google and didn’t find anything definitive and quantifiable, but I think the logic is that people are more likely or motivated to share a negative experience than promote a positive experience. Here’s an interesting article on the brand promoter vs. detractor.

  • Ashley Frizzell

    I totally agree with people being more likely or motivated to share a negative experience than a positive one. People totally expect the qualities of services and of their products to be what they were looking for. Therefore, they are very disappointed when they are not. If they do meet their needs or exceed their needs, they do not feel it necessary to discuss becuase that was their expectation. People do not deem it necessary to tell the world about something they already expected, but do deem it necessary to tell the world about how angry they are that a product did not meet these expectation. The media world has built high expectations for the people of today’s society and with the growth in technology, nothing is impossible to them. Therefore, it is easier to disappoint someone than it is to please them.

  • Ashley Frizzell

    I totally agree with you on this one. If there was a like button, I would be all over it :)… Advertising just explains to people what the company feels the product can do to meet your needs, but it is so general. They just use this to grab the attention of their audience. As number 2 states “Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors”. When the media is used for advertising they put they advertise to the demographic of that area, they create products based off the statistics of the demographics of those areas, but what they are missing is that these demographics are still human beings. We live in a world where you can’t just tell us that that using this prodcut will make our lives better, you have to show it. People are becoming more wordly when it comes to what is offered to them, and the products are so much easier to achieve (got to love online shopping), so you have to show us, give examples, and explain how something will work. For example, if you go to the different best buy stores just in our area alone, you will see that the general products are available, but each store has specific products that they specialize with it based off the demographic sector. What they don’t realize is that you can offere what you think this group of people will want to see the most, but you create a dissapointment when you cannot offer the products they were actually looking for. This tends to drive customers to other locations or other stores in general. 99% of my shopping is online because the stores do not have the products I am looking for, ever. It is very frustrating. However, there are so many products to look at and to choose from that it makes the selections more difficutl. Therefore, you have to rely on the opinions of people around you who have experience with these products to make decisions.

  • I think you are correct. I would make two points:

    1. What does a positive or negative comment actually do to affect a buying decision? Is a negative comment more powerful? Is a positive comment more impactful? This article has interesting insight into Yelp ratings impact on restaurants.

    2. Who truly makes public comments? In a few weeks, we’ll talk more about the social technographic profile, but suffice it to say that contributors are a small community among the overall net community.

  • Ashley Frizzell

    To take a pro-mass advertising position, if you read my previous post above this one it can give you background of where I am going with this (lol)… Mass advertising is needed in a world where there are so many resources when gaining knowledge about products. If company’s do not pro mass advertise, then how do you know the product exists. Like I said, there are so many products out there that you have to rely on word of mouth in your decision. If companys would take the time to show you how it works, and survey your needs, then give examples to specifiy it to your livlihood, people would be more likely to choose this product. Therefore it is in the best interest for companies to mass advertise. They do this everyday and you may not even realize it. They are not just advertising in store, online, in emails, in commercials, on billboards, ect. When you watch a TV show that you like, and you see the characters drinking a coke, it is putting coke products in your head and developing an interest for you, depending on how you view that character. This is why on Jersey Shore, Mike’s abercrombie clothese were shaded out on the series in that last season. He developed a bad image for himself, and it was not an image that abercrombie wanted so they shaded it out. People you don’t even know are walking advertisments from the clothes they wear to the products they are using. For example, I was actually looking for a cheaper basic tablet to have easier access to school work at the baseball field, but when I was playing with my mom’s IPAD and started to look into the different offerings behind an IPAD and the other tablets, I wanted the IPAD, but still felt like I didn’t need to spend the money and was looking at different tablets. Then I went to the store because technology is the only think I do not buy online. If you look at the accessorcies for the tablets, each brand has like one option to choose from in each catagorie, but the IPAD, has multiple choices. I, like everyone else, love choices, mostly because it creates a price war between the companies. So I went with the IPAD, just based off the choices in the store, the salesperson, seeing the uses from other people who have them, and the advertising. IF it weren’t for mass advertising, you would not know about the products at all and if you never know about something, then how can you say that you have what meets your need most. You have to see these other choices, and know that they exist to make the best choices.

  • Ashley Frizzell

    Is there a way to get this post to send you reminders? Just asking because I haven’t recieve this book yet. It is on the way, but i don’t know when it will be here. I know this isn’t really the place to add this, but it was the best way to relate the information 🙂

  • Ashley Frizzell

    With that being said, they don’t have to have facbook, myspace, twitter or anything like that to be participating in social media, in my opinion, from a company stand point. The fact that they get on the internet at all, creates a small business aspect of social media. When they go to the different pages, or just reasearch something, there is a database out there that is collecting this, and if they have an email address, which most do because to even have internet these days, they set up an email address to go to it, if they use it for any reason what so ever they just opened up a wold that they did not even realize. I refuse to do third party apps, except school feed, on facebook because i know they are giving my email address to these different consumers. I get enough junk emails as it is, but in those junk emails, i actually subscribe to on place called Groupon, which is awesome by the way. You know those older folks love to save, so when a store says they have more coupons online, they find a way to get there. Also, Walmart now has where you can do instore pick up on groceries. If they add a drive thru in that, it would make my day!!!!!!!

  • Ashley Frizzell

    Well I strongly agree that if a company shoes that they care, it will have a strong impact.. However, it is still based off societies perception of how they should care, and sometimes how the community wants them to care is impossible because of expectations. For example, the issue at Kingston Fossil plant with TVA. Yes that was awful, and yes it should have been investigated further before the disaster hit, but all the community sees is the negative. What they don’t talk about or discuss, is how much TVA invested into the clean up act. The fact that the company worked to get everything lost back to those people. THis included paying for multi-million dollar houses. So yes it was awful that happened, but they did care, they fixed it, and are still fixing it and making it better than it was before, but the community doesn’t care how they are working to get this done, they only care that it happend. Also, the fact tha the power rates go up.. TVA cannot help the environment changes, but they negotiate and do everythign possile to generat, buy, sell and trade power at the cheapest rates. We have goals with serious consequences if those rates are not met. TVA by far still has the cheapest powerr rates, and they do what it takes to keep it this way. What you are paying for is through your power company (EPB) of course they up the rates because they have to make a profit too. HOwever, when people want to blame someone for the numbers behind their powerbill, it is never what can EPB do for the communicty, it is what can TVA do for community. THey do not see the hand off there at all. It frustrates me to hear all of this stuff evene though I only work in IT. Another point, is it right that my salary is posted to the public because society feels that their power rates will be lower if we make less money? I am a worker bee and do not get anything special. I also don’t feel like it is right for people to need to know my salary. I do not care how much money you make, and it would be nice to be able to at least keep that private. I have been held up at gun point before, and it is very easiy to go to this site and track down where these people live, just opening doors for safety concerns. I am already paranoid, and this did not help the situation at all, and I do not think it is fair to be honest. How is posting my salary going to help you sleep at night in regards to TVA’s business?

  • Ashley Frizzell

    I actually had a manger that you could not find or get ahold of, but if you sent an email she was all over it. What people do not understand when using the social media apsect, is that just because you have more time to think it out, it doesn’t mean you should. Leave the detailed explanations for face to face contact. When using social media to get in touch with management remember that, yes they are too busy to read a three page email and will get lost in it with everything else. YOu need to keep it to a minimum and righ to the point. IF there is further follow up needed, as a good manager, they should make a time slot out for you to dicuss this. I actually have the best manager in the world now. We only use email and IM to answer two second questions or to say, can you come here we need to talk, ect. I myself do not get to my emails enough, but if you IM me to let me know that it is there, i will jump right on it. So it isn’t that the technology is overused, it is that it is not used effectively for the most part. Like other products, the service part between communication requires that you know the person you are making communication with and learn the best ways to approach this. With my manager, i send him to the point emails, wait for his communicator to go green stating he is online, and then go to his desk and discuss in more detail. I tend to get a lot more accomplished this way.

  • Ashley Frizzell

    I read through the posts, and i didn’t see it as a discussion so if It is one, I appologize, but I really like 76, “We’ve got some ideas for you too: Some new tools we need, some better service. Stuff We’d be willing to pay for. Got a minute?”.
    It is totally awesome to recieve feedback from customers in a business based off the products they are offering. THis totally gives companies a new means for innovating these ideas. However, when people say they are willing to pay for it, they are willing to pay for the final product. Not the resources, materials, and costs behind starting these ideas and gettting this going. THey also do not understand, most of the time, the infrastructure, regulations, and laws behind setting something up for their uses. Alot of people want to base their ideas off another product or something that has already happend. THere are rules and regulations around these products that these companies may not have a way to do exactly what you have envisioned. If you would go to them with your need, and not so much the tool or service, they may be able to implement these ideas in these products. Also, what you are asking for may already exist in something that you are using, but you just don’t know it. THere are many different tools I used day to day and as I dig and learn more about them, I actually see that they do so many different things that people are quick to buy other tools that are specific, when they can use the one they have already. IT has the feature along with other featurels. So I really think form a business perspecptive when they offer these ways of getting feedback and innovation, if they educate their customers on how somethign fully works, instead of saying, here is the user guide figure it out, then people will more likely purchase these poducts. I don’t know about you but I hate user manuals, I would rather just play with something until I figure it out. Unfortunatly those before this techology boom not only dont’ want to ready 6000 pages of details about using your product, they also don’t like figuring it out, so even if something has a certain capability unless someone shows them it is there, they assume this product does not do what they need. For example, we use SharePoint for collaboration in our company, but people tend to stick to their old ways of emailing and storing on files shares. They do not understand what all sharepoint can do for them how you can create processes, and use this to do some pretty awesome things withing your business all the way up to record storage and easy search methods.

  • Ashley Frizzell

    I never really understood the job of a food crtic, but that was one person evaluating these restaurants. Everyone has different taste buds, everyone has different perceptions of cleanliness and good service. So i can see how the impact of social media has change the rating scales in restaurants. However, these days everyone is an expert and thinks that they could do anyones job better than the person doing it. WHen it comes to critiquing by social media, what the readers don’t see is, “is there a personal conflict between the person writing the response and the person serving them or owning the restaurant, how emotional that person was that day, if the cook or the person serving was having a bad day, ect. ” People are quick to turn one bad experience into the worst experience of their lives, and they are also quick to relate something bad that happend to them earlier that day with their experience with a server or product. If someone is to read a terrible response made by another person, they are more likely to be affected by this remark and place judgement apon that product or service rendered. It gives the entire company a bad name. There can be 20 positive remarks to the one negative one, but people tend to put more emotion into the negative remark, which draws way more attention. THerefore, I believe the negative comments to tend to have more of an impact on the buying decision than the positive ones. LIke I said, people expect companies to exceed their expected needs, but they do not expect them to fail at what they are trying to accomplish. So they are lease likely to comment on this. I think people who are more likely to be negatively impacted by a product or service, or more likely to provide feedback. I worked in retail, and 90% of our comments were based from one time shoppers who had a bad experience. Their expericing could be that the prices wasn’t what they watned, but what they do not realize is that there isn’t much people can do about the price, because they to have to make a profit. THey forget to add all the discounted items to give the over all price of what they were looking for as a whole, they just concentrate on the one item where the price could not be dropped. Even though they paid overall what they expected, they did’t pay what they expected on one item. In my opininon, it is really hard to base a one time purchase or experience with your overall view of the company, especially when you don’t know how the company operates. Not all retailers work on commission, not all products can be dropped to a certain price because the manufacturer will not let them. If they go against these manufacturers, then the products will no longer be availabe in this store (in the extereme). These companies are fighting for who has the latest and greatest to offer, and manufacturers, like Apple will go where they sell the most and make the most money doing it. This is why Walmart can offer lower prices on certain products. What you don’t know is that if you read the detail on these products, it is not the same from a TV in Walmart to one in a Best Buy store. Yes, their names seem to be the same, and the model looks to be the exact same, but if you look at the end, it will be a letter off (most of the time) becuase for Walmart to give customers these lower prices, they have to set up contracts witht he manufactures and come to aggrements. TO meet these, the manufacture will not place the same specs on these items, like TV’s that they do at the other stores. So you are not getting exactly what was advertised to you overall. I wrote a paper on Walmart Last semester and if I could find the reference, i would post it, but I somehow lost it. I appologize.

  • These two theses were a couple of my favorites, too, Katy. When I think of the communities that businesses are in, the first thing that comes to my mind is the large number of businesses I can think of that talk at customers instead of to them or lecture customers instead of engaging in conversations with them. I completely agree with your point about involving yourself in a community to be a real part of it, and I think that is something that is easy for companies to forget. As companies rise in power and success, they forget how to really connect with “regular” people. As a consumer, that is a trait that is a real turn-off for me. If I feel like I can’t/don’t have a solid connection with a company, I’m probably less likely to want to do business with them. On the other hand, if I feel like a company really wants to talk to me and hear from me, I will overlook other companies in that industry in order to specifically do business with the company with which I feel connected. Talk about a big avenue to some serious potential customer loyalty!

  • I liked Thesis #20, “Companies need to realize their markets are are often laughing. At them.” This reminded of the Motrin example we discussed in class. In that case, the market wasn’t so much laughing as it was fuming, but it still goes along with the point that there is sometimes a huge disconnect between what the market wants and needs and what companies offer.

    Another example of this disconnect that comes to my mind are many “as-seen-on-TV” products. Maybe I’m the only one, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a commercial for a ShamWow or some OxiClean and thought “Gosh, how have I lived without that for so long? I must pick up my phone right now and order that so that my life will be improved!” No. Usually, I laugh because the product is so ridiculous. (Okay, I must admit: I did buy a Bump-It once. Guilty. But it didn’t really work, so I guess then I was left to laugh at myself for buying it in the first place.) Below is a link to some especially ridiculous as-seen-on-TV products. I tried to pick my favorite of the 10 products listed, but I just couldn’t because, I mean, honestly, how can you not laugh at every single one of those?! (My apologies if anyone actually owns one. I’m sure it’s great and I hope it has changed your life for the better like its ad promised it would.)

  • Siyun Sun

    One of my favorites is # 67, “As markets, as workers, we wonder why you’re not listening. You seem to be speaking a different language.” I believe listening to others is very important in the business world. I understand some people are really self-focused and doesn’t care others opinion. However, I think if you want to be a good marketer you need to listen to others and collect different kinds of information. Every day the world is changing, if you don’t keep yourself updated then you will be behind. Internet is a good way to receive news but I believe interpersonal reaction is also very important. Looking for an agreement is important in the business world, most of the time a company will need to find client or partners to establish the business. So I would say, listen to others, and communication is a great way to collect information and it will help your business as well.

  • Jason Lyon

    The thesis that really made an impact for me was #21, “Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humor.” I think this has really become more of an issue with the increasing emphasis on social marketing through the internet.

    With Facebook and Twitter you are trying to entice customers to “like” or “follow” your profile/page. Consumers don’t want to continuously listen to marketing rhetoric over and over or even fake engagement. Some examples of these bad types of marketing are @ATT on Twitter which spends at least 95% of their tweets on promoting AT&T and @Staples on Twitter who tries to create fake engagement with consumers with such interesting statements as “Aaaah… the #weekend. Time to #decompress. RT if you’re doing the same.”.

    Social Marketing should cause companies to engage with customers, but engage on a more, for lack of a better phrase, “non-fake” level. Everyone knows that Staples doesn’t care what I’m doing this weekend and, unless I’m an investor, I’m not really interested in AT&T blowing their own horn.

    Some companies, usually smaller and local companies, seem to have a good idea of how to balance this sense of humor and promotion. Locally, the best example I can think of is the Twitter/Facebook for Famous Nater’s Famous Sandwiches. Nathan, the owner, provides information regarding where to find his truck throughout the week, specials, he answers questions, and provides promotions all throughout his page. This has not only worked out for him in increased sales and visibility but his customers feel closer to the business and, if they like the sandwiches, more responsible for the success of the business as a whole.

  • I love this, Laura! I find these ads equally hilarious, but I am totally guilty of watching them for much longer than is acceptable. I mean, it really is amazing what OxiClean can do… Even if we’re laughing at them, we’re watching it! At least for a minute. That’s all it takes to get in our heads.

    I think companies that advertise this way have to be cognisant of how they’re perceived. If they can understand markets are laughing at them, they can more easily capitalize on our attention.

  • Lindsey Large

    I agree with you Katy. While they may have a ways to go, I can see that companies are trying to engage more with their employees. They are also trying to start more of a conversation with employees. The CEO of my company will post blogs on our intranet from time to time. While they are still very high level, corporate related blogs, it still gives employees more of a warm and fuzzy feeling, rather than simply reading a company letter or more formal announcement.

  • John Jacosalem

    I like to think of myself as a savvy buyer. I research products/services
    and do my due diligence. Yet, I have to continually remind myself of
    how skewed consumer ratings can be. It makes sense that people with
    complaints are more willing to voice their opinions.

    I find it interesting that so much pressure is placed on companies to fight something that is so difficult. If the “rule of begets” is a reality, it seems companies have to spend 10 times energy and money on fighting negative publicity than promoting positive publicity to equalize. At the same time, I also can understand why some companies can exaggerate their success sometimes — reality or not. For example, just last year, AMD launched an internet campaign for their newly released Bulldozer CPUs. It was largely a failure in itself, but a promotional video displaying it’s price-vs-performance advantage against Intel’s 2-year old CPUs reinforced in people’s minds that AMD continues to be a better value, despite this being no longer true (For those who don’t keep up with this kind of stuff, AMD has long been considered to have a price-vs-performance advantage over Intel). I daresay that AMD’s strategy is relying on its consumers lack of technological expertise. But what happens when this technological expertise gap is shortened? I’m interested to see how things unfold for AMD as the trust is broken.

  • John Jacosalem

    Mass advertising is cheap. For example, modest estimates of Super Bowl 2012 viewers are in the low 100 million. The most expensive commercial cost $4 million. That is a measly 4 cents per viewer. Even if 90% of the viewers decided to change the channel during commercials, the cost would be under $1 per viewer — very cost-effective.

    In 2010, Ford was Advertising Age’s Marketer of the Year, despite cutting it’s advertising budget. They focused on spending in more cost-effective advertising avenues — spending less on expensive but ineffective campaigns such as magazines and billboards (if I remember correctly; I can’t find the article anymore — these can cost over $100 per viewer), and spending more on inexpensive but effective campaigns such as the internet.

    If done properly, the amount of positive outcomes (people buying products/services as a result) far outweighs the negative outcomes (people getting annoyed by mass advertising).

  • John Jacosalem

    Thesis # 10
    As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more
    organized. Participation in a networked market changes people

    There are a host of savvy consumer boards online. More than ever, there is a world-wide awareness and sensitivity to companies. It almost seems as if there is an unspoken battle of company vs consumer. However, I think the smart companies are the ones who can take advantage of this. For example, I remember when most consumer boards consisted of only external communities where consumers mostly vented about their frustrations. These days, many companies like Lenovo, Intel, and The Home Depot have internal consumer boards where they not only have some control and can neutralize negative situations, but also help to inform customers about their products and programs.

    Whenever I see companies that don’t have programs like these, but instead leave their products/services to fend for themselves, I think of them as being stranded in the ocean surrounded by sharks. On the other hand, I think it is smart of companies to realize the effects of networked communities on their products/services, and try to instill some kind of control on it.

  • Mallory Long

    These two were some of the theses that really caught my eye. Community involvement and social responsibility have become more and more of the thing to do for companies today. I feel that there are many companies that are more than willing to throw a lot money at a problem that their community has and gain the publicity for it but they don’t really care about their community. They don’t care if the problem gets solved, they care that they are seen as helping. So I think that companies need to really find their true community and one that they care about and want to help not just throw money at,

  • Lindsey Large

    #77. You’re too busy “doing business” to answer our email? Oh gosh, sorry, gee, we’ll come back later. Maybe.

    This particular one was very relevant to me the other day. After getting out of work a little early, I decided I’d swing by a wal-mart on my way home to get my oil changed (it may have been my mistake attempting to get one there anyway). When I got there, I waited about 5 minutes before anyone greeted me. When they finally did come ask if they could help, I told them I just needed an oil change. The mechanic tells me “we are too busy, we can’t do that today” and simply walked away. I was a little taken back by how impolite he was, but it didn’t concern me too much. I simply drove to another walmart (I live a good half hour from work, so I pass multiple locations on my way home). When I got there, same story. Same exact story. After waiting on someone to finally help me, I was once again told they couldn’t service my vehicle today. They were too busy. The gentleman rudely walked away, and once again I didn’t get an oil change. Keep in mind I was at both locations hours before closing time. Here I am two days later, still no oil change. If the corporate giant is too busy for me, you can best believe I won’t be making time for them any time soon.

  • I’m coming in a bit late here, but I haven’t seen anyone mention #28 yet: “Most marketing programs are based on the fear that the market might see what’s really going on inside the company.”

    One of the most frustrating things for me, coming from an employee’s perspective, is the amount of secrecy and protectionism most organizations seem to have. For the most part, I am an open book both in my personal and professional life. I know I won’t agree with everyone, but we can agree to respect each other’s opinions and our right to be wrong.

    I think too often companies get tied up in the fear someone will realize they are not perfect and they’ll lose customer support. However, it’s growing more and more apparent that the opposite is true. If companies would admit their mistakes, say why they happened and ensure they have a plan for moving forward, customers appreciate the honesty and will trust the company more. As the sayings go, “He who never made a mistake, never made a discovery” (Samuel Smiles). Aside from trade secrets, I think businesses should be open and honest with all stakeholders – employees, customers, suppliers, etc. Open honesty will create more long-term loyalty. Not to mention it is a great way to hold managers and others accountable for their choices.

  • K. Leatherw00d

    #25 hits home for me “Companies need to come down from their Ivory Towers and talk to the people with whom they hope to create relationships.”

    i will be very vague when saying this but once upon a time there was a company who was valued very highly when it came to customer service. JD Powers rank them among the best of the best year after year, once this was achieved their focus changed and this company became high and mighty… With this stance on their Ivory Tower the company forgot about all the relationships that were built that led them to be a peoples favorite even with their “not so best coverage.” This company decided to change from assisting customers with lowering their bills and to attempting to pitch a sale on ever call that was not a sales call. This was step one to the end of their reign as the “peoples favorite.” With fading loyal customers this company still could not fathom the notion that everyone doesn’t want products shoved down their throats when they call in. Still in a last attempt to shave costs this company shipped 1000’s of jobs overseas and now you can barely get a tenured rep who can handle your customer issue. This definitely led this company’s demise, in 2011 a sale to AT&T was proposed and denied by the FCC. What hope is there when you forget from whence you came, the peoples favorite. Get back to the people, give back to the people and you might just remain a viable company.

  • carolyn.shope

    I want to talk with you about ths Lindsay. I have a mother who will not get a hearing aid but she misses so much and talking onthe phone is so upsetting cause I know she isnt getting the whole conversation IM works better but is so impersonal. What phones are these and do you work with the deaf as well for TTY cause my daughter is deaf. TTYL

  • Ben Schnell

    There is a lot of good stuff in the 95 Theses. My favorite is #85. “When we have questions we turn to each other for answers. If you didn’t have such a tight rein on “your people” maybe they’d be among the people we’d turn to.

    Every company wants people to turn to them with questions, because its a great opportunity for the company to meet the customer need. But its so rare that a company will be honest with you about pros and cons that we know we won’t get the straight message.

    When we talk to each other we get to the bottom of the advantages and disadvantages of a purchase. I would be more likely to buy from a company that realizes that there are times when I’m literally better off not buying from them. If they have the courage and honesty to own up to that, I’m going to run to them when I actually am going to make a purchase, and I’ll probably even be willing to pay a higher price because I trust them that they are genuinely seeking my best interest and not just their profit margin. As Cluetrain is trying to say all the way through, building honest relationships is actually good business, even if it means losing a big sale here and there.

  • Justin Sperrazza

    Here are a couple of the theses that I found particularly interesting:
    To speak with a human voice, companies must share the concerns of their communities.

    I like this theses because I believe that companies need to actively, genuinely get involved with the communities in which they are doing business. Often, companies will make generous donations to various national charities. But this can be viewed as impersonal or simply not be given a second thought by anyone. However, people are much more likely to remember the GM of the local branch of company “X” that they worked on a habitat for humanity house with than any of the faceless, obscure donations written from the company checkbook.

    You’re too busy “doing business” to answer our email? Oh gosh, sorry, gee, we’ll come back later. Maybe .

    This thesis is indicative of how I have felt many times when attempting to contact a company about a problem. Especially amusing are the instances when I have to sit through several commercials talking about the “great customer service” of the company I am having a problem with. The majority of the time I give up because it is not worth the time and effort to get through to them and, after all, they don’t really care; right? I have chosen not to do business with some companies after having a bad experience and receiving no follow up at all so this thesis really rings true for me..

  • Thomas Sisk

    I’d like to discuss thesis number 82: “Your product broke. Why? We’d like to ask the guy who made it. Your corporate strategy makes no
    sense. We’d like to have a chat
    with your CEO. What do you mean
    she’s not in?”

    I understand both sides of this conundrum, customers want
    information from people in the company but allowing all, even a few, employees
    to represent the company is very risky and can quickly put your brand/image in
    a very compromising situation. Having
    a CEO take calls or return messages/comments via social media could be a very
    powerful tool, especially if you target influencing customers. Setting aside 10 minutes of a CEO’s
    time each week to return messages/complaints to those with very high Klout scores might be a great way to maximize the effect this strategy. The customer would likely be very
    satisfied and relay the experience to their follower/friends.

    Comcast is a great example of a company who realized that
    direct communication with customers through social media can be a powerful
    tool. By creating ComcastCares,
    Comcast was able to respond to customers with technical problems faster than
    they could process calls in the call center. I see this as a powerful tool and a potential misstep at
    the same time. This probably worked
    well for Comcast due to their already poor reputation. If healthy company with a good
    reputation attempted this strategy this could be more like airing your dirty
    laundry. No one wants to air his
    or her dirty laundry in public unless it is cleaner than expected.

  • Matt Crawford

    I thought #77 hit the nail on the head: “You’re too busy ‘doing business’ to answer our emails? Oh gosh, sorry, gee, we’ll come back later. Maybe.”
    So often, corporate execs and other personnel at a company are too busy to simply respond to customer inquiries. They might think that it’s not important to give the customer an answer, but this can very easily drive customers away. Once that customer leaves, it’s highly unlikely that they will return.

    Thesis #83 Is also interesting: “We want you to take 50 million of us as seriously as you take one reporter from The Wall Street Journal.”
    I have never actually thought about this point, but it is spot on. There is no doubt that the reporter can influence the opinions of consumers across the country. Often times, CEO’s look at a high profile interview as a way to gain personal notoriety rather than to genuinely help the company. Going straight to the 50 million consumers would have a greater impact, and show that the company cares about their opinion.

  • Kelly Ellis

    I really like thesis #22. I think many organization struggle with how to communicate with their customers and often times come across very generic and “corporate sounding” because they fear backlash from a more casual tone. The less “corporate” a company sounds, the more likely I am to relate to them. I understand there is a time and a place for straight-forward and professional communication, but a little humor never hurts anybody. I personally get a kick out of cute error messages on websites. Even though it is not functioning as it should, the organization takes fault and pokes fun at themselves. It is just easier to relate to an organization when they are interacting with their customers with a more casual tone and with a sense of humor.

  • Jessica Cardwell

    Thesis #77 was one that really stood out to me mostly because of a recent experience. “You’re too busy “doing business” to answer our email? Oh gosh, sorry, gee, we’ll come back later. Maybe.” Companies need to take more pride in how they represent themselves through customer service. I recently purchased and item online. Never got the package but was also not charged for it. I contacted the company to ask where my product was and why I had not been charged as well. I never heard a reply from them. I at least expected a reply explaining what had gone wrong and how they planned to fix it. Thankfully I was not charged so it worked out but It’s things like this that give people bad impressions of customer service.

    Thesis #85 also stood out to me. “When we have questions we turn to each other for answers. If you didn’t have such a tight rein on “your people” maybe they’d be among the people we’d turn to.” This is so true. As consumers we never turn to the company for a review. We trust other consumers more than the company to give us a truthful answer.