The shift away from blind faith and unquestioned brand loyalty is good for both customers and organizations.
"Inch by inch, voter by voter, Barack Obama and John McCain labored for more than a year to lock down supporters and woo defectors," an Associated Press story stated in November 2008. "It turns out, though, that the nation's voters were a lot more fickle than commonly expected, and far more prone to switch allegiances."
"Conventional political wisdom says it can be pretty much taken for granted that most voters lean sharply left or right and commit to one candidate early on," the story continued, "and the real campaign fight is over a small slice of undecided voters in the middle."
Some years ago I was standing in Galway's Eyre Square. It was a hot summer's day (a minor Irish miracle). Three old men sat together on a bench. "Things aren't like they used to be," I overheard one saying. His friends' heads nodded sanguinely, lips pursing in agreement.
"I don't know what's got into these young ones," he continued, warming to the favorite subject of old people and Irish intellectuals. "Sure the country's ruined, ruined." He paused, wiped his hand across his forehead, drew it down his left check, then under his chin and back up his left cheek. His eyes squinted at two ruinous teenagers as they shuffled by. "Sure they don't even vote for the party their parents vote for!" he spat with finality. The ultimate insult.
The more sophisticated a society becomes, the more it questions, and the less its citizens can be taken for granted. The thriving economy is the one built on transparency and a desire to make decisions based on reason and logic rather than depending simply on emotion and gut instinct.
We are, of course, much more emotional than we are rational. Our emotions are hugely powerful and allow us to navigate through life. They are as important to decision-making as a sail is to a ship. But when we give our emotions too much rein they can lead us into deep and treacherous waters, as the current financial crisis certainly shows.
Ever so slowly the world is changing. There is a raising of the head of reason. There is a broad murmur of questioning. It's not coming from the center, or from any one organizational point. Rather, it is coming from the network, where everywhere is the center of somewhere. The Web is a world searching for answers. No longer trusting blindly what the politicians, CEOs, doctors, web gurus, or priests say.
We don't want pictures of 'important' people on a homepage. It doesn't impress us at all (quite the opposite in fact). We want to be spared those embarrassing press releases and the smiling faces of actors pretending to be customers. Or that marketing and branding meaningless drivel about solving tomorrow's problems today. And we find it so tiring to read an organization's name in practically every sentence. We're on its website, after all. We know its name.
The people who go to the Web are much too smart to be seduced by dumb retro marketing and PR tricks. Treat those who visit your website as intelligent strangers. Give them the facts. Get to the point. And, you know, in an age of truth-searching, telling them the truth could be the most radical marketing and PR strategy of all.
About the Author
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.