Are you experienced?

Yesterday I was sitting on a train trying very hard not to listen to two elderly people engaging in a loud discussion about politics. The topics discussed ranging from our participation in Europe to the welfare state. The arguments were fairly fascinating; an insight into how life has changed over the years. I am delighted to report that the phrase “it wasn’t like that in our day” was used more than once. My initial reaction was to dismiss their opinions, but on reflection I understand their conclusions. As humans we are biased towards our own life experiences, we form our views based on our own particular past.The advertising industry doesn’t like this. In the brand-driven 21st century billions of pounds are pumped into pre-conditioning our understanding of a particular product or service. From advertising and product placement to celebrity endorsements, every brand is busy at work and the results can be worryingly influential. I have never owned an Audi but my perception of their products is one of quality, refinement and social status. I haven’t even driven an Audi, so the very idea that owning one will be a good experience is based almost entirely on the slick advertising and I’m ashamed to say that it worked on me.But there is hope. ‘Influence independence’ is one of the single most important revolutions arising from the internet. As a consumer I can now check out the nostrums peddled by the marketers. The world is connected, we all like to talk and it’s a game changer. No longer do I have to rely on my own experiences and those of the guys trying to sell me something. I can ask the world and it’s easy to get an answer.Social networks such as Twitter and independent product review services like FeeFo have enabled the independent assessment of everything from the car we drive to the movies we watch. Sticking with Audi, my perceptions were dashed when I spotted a tweet from a friend complaining that his brand new A3 was full of water after the boot seals failed. Thanks to his online commentary I also got a blow-by-blow account of the resulting customer care, product quality and after sales process and it wasn’t pretty. Certainly not the “vorsprung durk technique” I was expecting. Again I have been influenced, but this time it’s from a source I trust. Crucially it’s independent.It turns out the two old ladies on the train were right, comparing our own experiences with the realities of the world gives us a unique view point. While not everyone may agree with our views, the internet has provided us with a platform for voicing them and that’s to the benefit of everyone. In addition, when you aggregate all of the view together you end up with both an independent and statistically accurate view of the world. Now companies can’t just string a nice line, they need to deliver as well.