Signers & Comments
- Markets are conversations.
- Markets consist of human
beings, not demographic sectors.
- Conversations among human
beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.
- Whether delivering
information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous
asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.
- People recognize each other
as such from the sound of this voice.
- The Internet is enabling
conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the
era of mass media.
- Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.
- In both internetworked
markets and among intranetworked employees, people are speaking
to each other in a powerful new way.
- These networked conversations
are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge
exchange to emerge.
- As a result, markets are
getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a
networked market changes people fundamentally.
- People in networked markets
have figured out that they get far better information and support from
one another than from vendors. So much for corporate rhetoric about
adding value to commoditized products.
- There are no secrets. The
networked market knows more than companies do about their own products.
And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.
- What's happening to markets
is also happening among employees. A metaphysical construct called "The
Company" is the only thing standing between the two.
- Corporations do not speak in
the same voice as these new networked conversations. To their intended
online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman.
- In just a few more years, the
current homogenized "voice" of business—the sound of mission statements
and brochures—will seem as contrived and artificial as the language of
the 18th century French court.
- Already, companies that speak
in the language of the pitch, the dog-and-pony show, are no longer
speaking to anyone.
- Companies that assume online
markets are the same markets that used to watch their ads on television
are kidding themselves.
- Companies that don't realize
their markets are now networked person-to-person, getting smarter as a
result and deeply joined in conversation are missing their best
- Companies can now communicate
with their markets directly. If they blow it, it could be their last
- Companies need to realize
their markets are often laughing. At them.
- Companies need to lighten up
and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humor.
- Getting a sense of humor does
not mean putting some jokes on the corporate web site. Rather, it
requires big values, a little humility, straight talk, and a genuine
point of view.
- Companies attempting to
"position" themselves need to take a position. Optimally, it
should relate to something their market actually cares about.
- Bombastic boasts—"We are
positioned to become the preeminent provider of XYZ"—do not constitute a
- Companies need to come down
from their Ivory Towers and talk to the people with whom they hope to
- Public Relations does not
relate to the public. Companies are deeply afraid of their markets.
- By speaking in language that
is distant, uninviting, arrogant, they build walls to keep markets at
- Most marketing programs are
based on the fear that the market might see what's really going on
inside the company.
- Elvis said it best: "We can't
go on together with suspicious minds."
- Brand loyalty is the
corporate version of going steady, but the breakup is inevitable—and
coming fast. Because they are networked, smart markets are able to
renegotiate relationships with blinding speed.
- Networked markets can change
suppliers overnight. Networked knowledge workers can change employers
over lunch. Your own "downsizing initiatives" taught us to ask the
question: "Loyalty? What's that?"
- Smart markets will find
suppliers who speak their own language.
- Learning to speak with a
human voice is not a parlor trick. It can't be "picked up" at some tony
- To speak with a human voice,
companies must share the concerns of their communities.
- But first, they must belong
to a community.
- Companies must ask themselves
where their corporate cultures end.
- If their cultures end before
the community begins, they will have no market.
- Human communities are based
on discourse—on human speech about human concerns.
- The community of discourse
is the market.
- Companies that do not belong
to a community of discourse will die.
- Companies make a religion of
security, but this is largely a red herring. Most are protecting less
against competitors than against their own market and workforce.
- As with networked markets,
people are also talking to each other directly inside the
company—and not just about rules and regulations, boardroom directives,
- Such conversations are taking
place today on corporate intranets. But only when the conditions are
- Companies typically install
intranets top-down to distribute HR policies and other corporate
information that workers are doing their best to ignore.
- Intranets naturally tend to
route around boredom. The best are built bottom-up by engaged
individuals cooperating to construct something far more valuable: an
intranetworked corporate conversation.
- A healthy intranet
organizes workers in many meanings of the word. Its effect is
more radical than the agenda of any union.
- While this scares companies
witless, they also depend heavily on open intranets to generate and
share critical knowledge. They need to resist the urge to "improve" or
control these networked conversations.
- When corporate intranets are
not constrained by fear and legalistic rules, the type of conversation
they encourage sounds remarkably like the conversation of the networked
- Org charts worked in an older
economy where plans could be fully understood from atop steep management
pyramids and detailed work orders could be handed down from on high.
- Today, the org chart is
hyperlinked, not hierarchical. Respect for hands-on knowledge wins over
respect for abstract authority.
management styles both derive from and reinforce bureaucracy, power
tripping and an overall culture of paranoia.
- Paranoia kills conversation.
That's its point. But lack of open conversation kills companies.
- There are two conversations
going on. One inside the company. One with the market.
- In most cases, neither
conversation is going very well. Almost invariably, the cause of failure
can be traced to obsolete notions of command and control.
- As policy, these notions are
poisonous. As tools, they are broken. Command and control are met with
hostility by intranetworked knowledge workers and generate distrust in
- These two conversations want
to talk to each other. They are speaking the same language. They
recognize each other's voices.
- Smart companies will get out
of the way and help the inevitable to happen sooner.
- If willingness to get out of
the way is taken as a measure of IQ, then very few companies have yet
- However subliminally at the
moment, millions of people now online perceive companies as little more
than quaint legal fictions that are actively preventing these
conversations from intersecting.
- This is suicidal. Markets
want to talk to companies.
- Sadly, the part of the
company a networked market wants to talk to is usually hidden behind a
smokescreen of hucksterism, of language that rings false—and often is.
- Markets do not want to talk
to flacks and hucksters. They want to participate in the conversations
going on behind the corporate firewall.
- De-cloaking, getting
personal: We are those markets. We want to talk to you.
- We want access to your
corporate information, to your plans and strategies, your best thinking,
your genuine knowledge. We will not settle for the 4-color brochure, for
web sites chock-a-block with eye candy but lacking any substance.
- We're also the workers who
make your companies go. We want to talk to customers directly in our own
voices, not in platitudes written into a script.
- As markets, as workers, both
of us are sick to death of getting our information by remote control.
Why do we need faceless annual reports and third-hand market research
studies to introduce us to each other?
- As markets, as workers, we
wonder why you're not listening. You seem to be speaking a different
- The inflated self-important
jargon you sling around—in the press, at your conferences—what's that
got to do with us?
- Maybe you're impressing your
investors. Maybe you're impressing Wall Street. You're not impressing
- If you don't impress us, your
investors are going to take a bath. Don't they understand this? If they
did, they wouldn't let you talk that way.
- Your tired notions of "the
market" make our eyes glaze over. We don't recognize ourselves in your
projections—perhaps because we know we're already elsewhere.
- We like this new marketplace
much better. In fact, we are creating it.
- You're invited, but it's our
world. Take your shoes off at the door. If you want to barter with us,
get down off that camel!
- We are immune
to advertising. Just forget it.
- If you want us to talk to
you, tell us something. Make it something interesting for a change.
- 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?
- You're too busy "doing
business" to answer our email? Oh gosh, sorry, gee, we'll come back
- You want us to pay? We want
you to pay attention.
- We want you to drop your
trip, come out of your neurotic self-involvement, join the party.
- Don't worry, you can still
make money. That is, as long as it's not the only thing on your mind.
- Have you noticed that, in
itself, money is kind of one-dimensional and boring? What else can we
- 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?
- We want you to take 50
million of us as seriously as you take one reporter from The Wall
- We know some people from your
company. They're pretty cool online. Do you have any more like that
you're hiding? Can they come out and play?
- 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.
- When we're not busy being
your "target market," many of us are your people. We'd rather be
talking to friends online than watching the clock. That would get your
name around better than your entire million dollar web site. But you
tell us speaking to the market is Marketing's job.
- We'd like it if you got
what's going on here. That'd be real nice. But it would be a big mistake
to think we're holding our breath.
- We have better things to do
than worry about whether you'll change in time to get our business.
Business is only a part of our lives. It seems to be all of yours. Think
about it: who needs whom?
- We have real power and we
know it. If you don't quite see the light, some other outfit will come
along that's more attentive, more interesting, more fun to play with.
- Even at its worst, our
newfound conversation is more interesting than most trade shows, more
entertaining than any TV sitcom, and certainly more true-to-life than
the corporate web sites we've been seeing.
- Our allegiance is to
ourselves—our friends, our new allies and acquaintances, even our
sparring partners. Companies that have no part in this world, also have
- Companies are spending
billions of dollars on Y2K. Why can't they hear this market timebomb
ticking? The stakes are even higher.
- We're both inside companies
and outside them. The boundaries that separate our conversations look
like the Berlin Wall today, but they're really just an annoyance. We
know they're coming down. We're going to work from both sides to
take them down.
- To traditional corporations,
networked conversations may appear confused, may sound confusing. But we
are organizing faster than they are. We have better tools, more new
ideas, no rules to slow us down.
- We are waking up and linking
to each other. We are watching. But we are not waiting.