The Cluetrain Manifesto Twenty Years Later: Still relevant

“Markets are Conversations.” This the opening salvo in the Cluetrain Manifesto. It’s 95 theses were written at the dawn of the commercial internet to help businesses understand how things had changed. Twenty years later, did we heed their advice? Is the Cluetrain Manifesto still relevant?

Contrarians. They’re trouble. At least they’re trouble in structured organizations.

Contrarians seem to always take the stance in opposition to the status quo.

They are more likely to have an authority complex, not because they don’t like to be told what to do, but because authority figures are more likely to do things the way things have always been done.

They are the “But maybe…” in your “Of course we…”.

They are the exceptions to your rule.

They point out the interesting sites along your commute that you’ve never noticed.

It’s hard for contrarians. They believe that you don’t “get it” every bit as much as you believe they don’t get it. They tend to see things as they are and have an unhealthy disregard for tradition.

It’s hard for businesses to find a place for contrarians. But, when they do find their place, the results can be incredible. Think Steve Jobs. He was kicked out of the company he founded before returning to it at a desperate hour.

And maybe this is when we should listen to contrarians, in those desperate hours.

The Desperate Hour of the Cluetrain Manifesto

Back in 1999 a group of contrarians saw a desperate hour approaching. A new tool had begun to change the fundamentals of communication, commerce and expression. The internet was shifting marketing so fundamentally, these contrarians believed, that it would change the way buyers buy and businesses sell.

“The Clue train was all about that. It was all about disrupting the marketing conversation.”

Confused businesses saw the internet as just another broadcasting channel, a place for their crafted ads and manipulative marketing. The contrarians felt businesses really needed to get a clue, to climb aboard the train that had already left the station, headed for the future.

In the spirit of Martin Luther, who launched the protestant revolution by nailing 95 theses on the door of a Catholic church, they nailed their 95 theses on the door of the church of ideas: the world wide web.

The Cluetrain Manifesto was immensely influential to me when it came out in 1999. Yes. Left to my own devices, I am a contrarian. My contrarian bent cost me more than one job and even a few friendships.

But I found my place during a desperate hour. Be mindful of contrarians in positions of power.

It was during a conversation with a new friend, Tara Hunt, that I found a fellow Cluetrain contrarian. Tara is the CEO of marketing strategy agency Truly and is launching Phlywheel, a resource for DIY marketers.

Honestly, I hadn’t thought about the Cluetrain Manifesto in years. When I read it now, it seems obvious, so ingrained is it in my psyche.

I was so glad to rediscover it, that I recorded it for you on this podcast.

Tara and I reminisced about this amazing document and looked back at its impact. Did we businesses learn the lessons of the Cluetrain Manifesto? This conversation took so many turns that we split it into two parts.

In part one, we start off talking about what the Cluetrain Manifesto was about.

In part two, we look at social media, which was nothing like it is today when the Cluetrain Manifesto was created.

Resources and links

Connect with Tara on Linkedin
Learn more about Truly.
Cluetrain Manifesto
Donna Pappacosta “Earbud Intimate”
Jim Collins Flywheel
Know Your Customers’ “Jobs to Be Done”
Follow Brian on LinkedIn

Brian Massey
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