Site Marketing - Web Ecosystem

Rise of the grudger customer

by Gerry McGovern


On the Web a new type of customer is rising. One more and more
immune to marketing happy talk. One that wants facts before

In his seminal book, The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins explores
the idea of the sustainable ecosystem. In one game of life there
were three players: suckers, cheats and grudgers.

Each player needs to find another to scratch its back. Suckers
scratch the back of whoever asks them. Cheats ask to get their
backs scratched but never return the favor. Grudgers scratch a
back if asked, but if you don't return the favor they will never
scratch your back again.

Too much marketing and advertising treats the customer like a
sucker. By cleverly manipulating our core emotions, advertising
gets us to buy products that are never quite what they seem.
(Have you ever seen a car advertisement shot in rush hour

Of course, marketing is not entirely to blame here. The consumer
is nearly always a sucker to complexity in the store, while
cursing its lack of simplicity once they take it home. Our
reason and logic has long suffered from our relentless tsunami
of emotions.

The game of scratching begins and the cheats race into the lead,
driving the suckers and grudgers close to extinction. However,
as there are less and less suckers to exploit, the grudgers
slowly begin to advance. Over time, the grudgers rise and rise,
with the cheats declining and the suckers never recovering. It
seems that a sustainable ecosystem is dominated by grudgers.

A large multinational found that every time it added a "hero
shot"-that perfect, smiling face-to a webpage, the number of
customers who left the page immediately after arriving shot up.
Once the hero shot was removed customers stayed on the page much

Puzzled, the multinational started doing some usability testing.
A typical response from a customer was: "When I see a picture
like that I just think marketing. I'm at the website to solve a
problem. I don't have time for this stuff."

As long as the world was full of suckers it was easy for
marketing cheats to make an easy killing. But while the Web has
its suckers, it really is the land of grudgers. It is the land
of comparison shopping and customer reviews. It is the land of
rapid search and the Back button.

The Web is where customers become the biggest organization of
all, because the Web allows them to organize in a way they never
could before. A good product or service has nothing to fear from
the Web. The grudger will trust, but you had better deliver.

The media lives off our fears. Advertising lives off our dreams.
The grudger customer is nobody's fool.