The clue to word of mouth marketing was in Cluetrain Manifesto

By Ted Wright October 22, 2018

cluetrain manifesto

By Ted Wright

In 1999, a few friends were chatting online about the inevitable destiny of business and the internet. They believed that companies would have to humble themselves and show a more human face to the world to survive in this new space driven by human conversations.

The friendly conversation turned into a blog post, and the blog post turned into one of the most famous and prescient business books of our day, The Cluetrain Manifesto.

The book is made up of 95 “theses,” but the major theme is this:

“Markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny, and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can’t be faked.” Thus networked markets have no respect for companies unable or unwilling to speak as they do. I double dog dare you to talk to teenagers about the price/value ratio of a Supreme t-shirt vs. one from the Gap.

“Learning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor will corporations convince us they are human with lip service about ‘listening to customers.’ They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf.”

Although this book was written 20 years ago, the fundamental philosophy is even more relevant today because they were correct – the most human brand will always win. So what’s going on now?

Well two things really – the rise of Word of Mouth Marketing and it’s focus on face-to-face conversation between two people who already know each other and businesses turning to algorithms and robotic conversations that show how efficiently their marketing technology “stack” can perform. Often times these algorithmic outcomes are really broadcast messages sent to a narrow group. Like the ads for a cruise populating your computer three weeks after you get back from your cruise vacation. Really? You just went on a cruise. It’s helpful for a machine to nag you about signing up for another?

Wouldn’t it be better if somehow you were at a social event and a conversation about cruises occurred and you were able to join in, share your story. That’s WOMM, the creation of the environment that makes it as easy as possible for two people to have a conversation about a specific product or service.

The Cluetrain authors were right. Conversations are markets and markets are where profits occur. The smart businesses have to wake up and join in … and maybe even start the dialogue.

Ted Wright


Ted Wright is the founder of Fizz, the world’s leading word of mouth marketing (WOMM) agency. Ted is also an acclaimed WOMM keynote speaker and the author of Fizz: Harness the Power of Word of Mouth Marketing to Drive Brand Growth

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