The Cluetrain Manifesto: what is it and what is it for?

According to Wikipedia's definition, the Cluetrain manifesto is defined as follows: "The Cluetrain manifesto is a list of 95 conclusions ordered and presented as a manifesto, or call to action, for all companies operating in what is suggested to be a newly connected marketplace. The ideas expressed within the manifesto seek to examine the impact of the internet on both markets (consumers) and organisations. Furthermore, both consumers and organisations are able to use the internet and other networks to establish a level of communication that previously did not exist between these two groups. The manifesto suggests the changes necessary for organisations to respond to a new market environment" (Wikipedia).

Find out more about the Cluetrain Manifesto: what it is and what it is for. Sonia de la Cruz's 95 conclusions.

Sonia de la Cruz

Reading time: 13 min

Definition

Rick Levine and Christopher Locke, the new Jules Verne of the digital age, detailed 95 statements of something that had not yet arrived…

It is curious, and something that has not left me indifferent, because the fact that there are people who are capable of intuiting what is to come seems to me to be of privileged minds, but if it is about something that years later has managed to transform the way we work and relate to each other, it seems even more incredible to me.

These gentlemen wrote the manifesto in 1999, when social networks did not yet exist and were not even expected… To think that, at that time, most jobs were computer-free… all paper-based, and mobiles… those of us who were privileged began to carry mobiles on a regular basis, but don’t think that it was widespread.
Anyway, these two gentlemen dared to detail some statements that are still true today, more than 20 years later.

Before leaving you with the 95 statements, I would like to ask a couple of questions that have been going around in my head…

Have we evolved too fast?

Today, after having suffered a global pandemic that disorientated and terrified us all, it makes us think: what would our life have been like without social networks, without technology to give continuity to our work, at least for an important part of society (I don’t even want to think about it)?

My grandmother always said that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger… and what we can sense is that, from now on, the digital transformation, not only in companies, but also in everyday life, will force us to undergo an even more brutal cultural change. So, my advice is, get your act together!!! this waits for no one.

Here are the 95 conclusions I have drawn from The Cluetrain Manifesto: the decline of the conventional company.

Don’t miss it, it’s easy to read. What I liked the most is the way it is told… it is still a manifesto where some statements are detailed in a numbered way, however, as they go on, they grow, they get bigger and bigger… it seems as if you were talking to a friend who is detailing everything he doesn’t like about you… or as if you were listening to a rally, where the politician is raising his voice so that his followers applaud him effusively. I share it with you because I think it was a stroke of genius on the part of these two eggheads to have written this in 1999.

The Cluetrain Manifesto: the decline of the conventional company

1. Markets are conversations.

2. Markets consist of human beings, not demographics.

3. Conversations between human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.

4. Whether conveying information, opinions, perspectives, counter-arguments or humorous notes, the human voice is open, natural, sincere.

5. People are recognised as such by the sound of this voice.

6. The Internet makes it possible to have conversations between human beings that were simply impossible in the age of mass media.

7. Hyperlinks undermine hierarchies.

8. In interconnected markets, as between interconnected employees, people use powerful new forms of communication.

9. Networked conversations make possible the emergence of powerful new forms of social organisation and knowledge sharing.

10. As a result, markets become smarter, more informed, more organised. Participation in an interconnected marketplace changes people in a fundamental way.

11. People participating in these interconnected markets have discovered that they can get much better information and support from each other than from sellers. Enough of the corporate rhetoric about adding value to general consumer products.

12. There are no secrets. The online world knows more than companies know about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they communicate it to everyone.

13. What happens in the markets also happens among employees. A metaphysical construct called a company is the only thing that remains between the two.

14. Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these interconnected conversations. To their target audience, companies sound hollow, opaque, literally inhuman.

15. In just a few years the current homogenised voice of the business world, the sound of corporate missions and official brochures will seem as stilted and artificial as the language of the French court in the 18th century.

16. Today, companies that speak the language of charlatans no longer get anyone’s attention.

17. Companies that assume that online markets are the same as the markets that see their TV ads are deluding themselves.

18. Companies that do not realise that their markets are now interconnected person-to-person and, consequently, becoming more intelligent and deeply engaged in conversation, are missing their best opportunity.

19. Companies can now communicate with their markets directly. This could be their last chance if they miss it.

20. Companies must realise that their customers often laugh at them.

21. Companies need to “lighten up” and take themselves less seriously. They need to have a sense of humour.

22. Having a sense of humour does not mean putting jokes on the corporate website. It requires values, a bit of humility, honesty and a sincere point of view.

23. Companies trying to position themselves need to take a stand. Ideally, related to something that really matters to their market.

24. Exaggerated statements – we are in a position to become the leading supplier of XYZ – do not constitute a position.

25. Companies need to get off their pedestal and talk to the people they hope to build relationships with.

26. Public relations does not relate to the public. Companies are deeply afraid of their markets.

27. By using language that is distant, unattractive, arrogant, they build walls that distance them from their markets.

28. Most marketing plans are based on the fear that the market might find out what is really going on inside the company.

29. Elvis Presley said it best: we can’t stay together if we suspect each other.

30. Brand loyalty is the corporate version of a stable relationship, but break-up is inevitable and fast approaching. Because they are interconnected, smart markets can renegotiate their relationships with incredible speed.

31. Networked markets can switch suppliers instantly. Networked knowledge workers can change employers over lunch. Companies’ own downsizing initiatives taught us to ask: loyalty, what is that?

32. Smart markets will find suppliers who speak their language.

33. Learning to speak with a human voice is not a magic trick. It cannot be learned in some lecture.

34. To speak in a human voice, companies must share their communities’ concerns.

But first, they must belong to a community.

36. Companies must ask themselves how far their corporate culture goes.

37. If their culture ends before their community begins, then they will have no market. The philosophy of the internet as a communication medium: the Cluetrain manifesto.

38. Human communities are based on dialogue, human conversations about human concerns.

39. The community of dialogue is the market.

40. Companies that do not belong to a dialogue community will die.

41. Companies have made a religion out of their security, but this is of no use. Most protect themselves less against their competitors than against their own market and workforce.

42. As in networked markets, people also communicate with each other directly within the company and do not only talk about rules and regulations, the official line, profitability.

43. These conversations take place through corporate intranets. But only when conditions are favourable.

44. Companies set up their intranets from the top to distribute their human resources policies and other corporate information that their workers are trying to ignore.

45. Intranets tend to focus on boredom. The best ones are built from the bottom up, by participative individuals cooperating to build something far more valuable: an interconnected corporate conversation.

46. A healthy intranet organises employees in several senses of the word. Its effect is more radical than the agenda of any trade union.

47. As scary as this is for companies, they also rely heavily on these open intranets to generate and share critical knowledge. They need to resist the temptation to enhance or control these conversations.

48. When corporate intranets are not constrained by fear and regulation, the kind of conversation they foster is remarkably similar to a conversation in networked markets.

49. Organisation charts worked in the old economy where plans could be fully understood from the top of steep administrative pyramids and detailed work orders could be passed down from above.

50. Today the organisation chart is hyperlinked, not hierarchical. Respect for practical knowledge is more important than abstract authority.

51. Administrative styles of command and control arise from and reinforce bureaucracy, power struggles and a general culture of paranoia.

52. Paranoia kills conversation. That is its goal. But the lack of open conversation kills companies.

53. There are two conversations going on. One within the company. One with the market. The philosophy of the internet as a means of communication: the Cluetrain manifesto.

54. In general, neither of these conversations goes very well. Almost invariably, the cause of failure can be found in outdated ideas of command and control.

55. As policy, these ideas are poisonous. As tools, they are broken. Command and control practices clash with the hostility of networked knowledge workers and generate distrust in networked markets.

56. These two conversations want to meet. They speak the same language. They recognise each other’s voices.

57. Smart companies will do whatever it takes to make the inevitable happen sooner rather than later.

58. If IQ were measured as the willingness to make way or get out of the way, it would turn out that very few companies have become wise.

59. Although it is somewhat subliminal at the moment, there are millions of people online who perceive companies as little more than curious legal fictions, actively trying to prevent these conversations from intersecting.

60. This is suicidal. Markets want to talk to companies.

61. Unfortunately, the part of the company with which markets want to communicate hides behind a smokescreen of false-sounding language, and more often than not it is.

62. Markets do not want to talk to charlatans and hucksters. They want to engage in conversations behind the corporate firewall.

63. Get on a more personal level: we are those markets. We want to chat with you.

64. We want access to your corporate information, your plans and strategies, your best ideas and your genuine knowledge. We won’t settle for your four-colour brochures or your website overloaded with visual tidbits, but with very little substance.

65. Also, we are the employees who make your businesses work. We want to talk directly to customers in our own voice, not in scripted, hackneyed phrases.

66. As markets, as employees, we are sick and tired of getting our information by remote control. Why do we need impersonal annual reports and third-hand market research to present to each other?

67. As markets and as workers, we ask: why don’t you listen? You seem to speak a different language.

68. The inflated and pompous language you use in the press, in your conferences, what does it have to do with us?

69. Maybe you impress your investors. Maybe you impress the stock market. You don’t impress us.

70. If you don’t make a big impression on us, your investors are going to lose out. They don’t understand this? If they did, they wouldn’t let you talk the way you do. The philosophy of the internet as a means of communication: the Cluetrain Manifesto.

71. Your old-fashioned ideas about the market make us turn our eyes skywards. We don’t recognise ourselves in your projections, perhaps because we know we are already somewhere else.

72. This new market looks much better to us. In fact, we are creating it.

73. You are invited, but it is our world. Take off your shoes and leave them by the door. If you want to trade with us: get off your camel!

74. We are immune to advertising. Forget it.

75. If you want us to talk to you, tell us something interesting for a change.

76. We also have some ideas for you: new tools we need, some better service, things we’re willing to pay for. Things we’re willing to pay for. Do you have a minute?

77. Are you so busy doing business that you can’t answer our email? Gee, we’ll come back later, maybe.

78. You want us to put our money in? We want you to pay attention.

79. We want you to discard your trip, come out of your neurotic introversion. Come to the party.

80. Don’t worry, you can still make money. Just as long as it’s not the only thing on your mind.

81. Have you realised that, by itself, money is one-dimensional and boring? What else can we talk about?

82. Your product failed. Why? We’d like to ask the person who made it. Your corporate strategy doesn’t make sense. We’d like to talk to your CEO. What do you mean he’s not here?

83. We want you to treat 50 million of us as seriously as you treat a reporter from the financial newspaper.

84. We know some people in your company. They keep a good attitude online. Do you have any more of those stashed around? Can they come out and play?

85. When we have doubts, we rely on each other to clear them up. If you didn’t have such tight control over your people, maybe we’d lean on them too.

86. When we are not busy being your target market, many of us are your people. We’d rather talk to friends online than watch the clock. That would help get your name out there better than your million dollar website. But you say it’s up to the marketing department to talk to the market.

87. We’d like you to understand what’s going on here. That would be great. But it would be a mistake to think that we are going to wait with our arms folded.

88. We care about more important things than whether you will change in time to do business with us. Business is just one part of our lives. It seems to be everything in yours. Think about it: who needs whom?

89. We have real power and we know it. If you don’t get to see the light, someone else will come along and give us more attention, it will be more interesting and fun to play with.

90. Even in the worst case, our new conversation is more interesting than most trade shows, more entertaining than a TV show, and certainly more real-life than any corporate website we’ve ever visited. The philosophy of the internet as a medium of communication: the Cluetrain Manifesto

91. Our loyalty is to ourselves, our friends, our new allies and acquaintances, even our battle buddies. Companies that have no role in this world have no future either.

92. Companies spend millions of dollars on the Y2K problem. How can they not hear this ticking time bomb? Something more important is at stake.

93. We are both inside companies and outside them. The boundaries that separate our conversations resemble the Berlin Wall today, but they are only a hindrance. We know they will fall. We will work from both sides to bring them down.

94. To traditional corporations, networked conversations look like a sea of confusion. But we are organising faster than they are. We have better tools, more new ideas, and no rules to stop us.

95. We are waking up and connecting. We are watching, but we are not waiting.


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