Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Consumer Centric Companies

When you hear about a corporate giant, I at least, have fixed expectations that they would be polished, slick and feel staged and quaffered.  I am obviously not a true child of the internet age.  For example if someone showed you google afresh and told you that it was (potentially) the worlds most important and influential company your first reaction might be 'i could have art directed this site.'  

I had the very same reaction today when i went to look at Craigs List for the first time.  It looks kind of like a place that you end up when you take a wrong turn.   In a recent podcast that i listened to the potential for the capitalisation of Craigs List and the exploitation of its vast resource of consumer data was being discussed.  The response from the company was that they only ever do things that their consumers ask them to do.  And their consumers never asked them to exploit their data to sell them stuff and so it would never occur to them to try it.  

The same podcast explained how many people from the world of business get frustrated by the 'non-strategic' behaviour of Craigs List to not milk as much profit out of the market as it can, as quickly as it can.

On a separate note I was watching a film recently about the nature of the corporation and how it evolved to win the right to operate on the same level as a person - i.e. when you enter into a contract with a corporation it is pretty much legislated for in the same way as if you are entering it with a person.

The film saw this as a bad thing which it may well be.  But if you saw the relationship between Craigs List and its audience as the relationship between two people then it would not seem so strange that they would not want to go off and sell the online behaviour of its partner to the highest bidder in order to allow 3rd parties to serve them unwanted messages.  In fact it would seem pretty odd to see that as a reasonable option.

Only ever do things that your consumers would vote for if asked.  That seems like a constitutional principal

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