A Reverse Turing Test

1. Markets Are Conversations

What would be the opposite of this idea? That markets are not conversations. That organizations can sell an idea without the interaction with its prospective clients, customers or even beneficiaries. That somehow, these “interactions”, if it can be called that, can actually happen one-way – the corporation or the individual selling or trying to market something can actually actually do this without the benefit of listening to the people who actually use these products. I just came from a restaurant today where the waiter asked my friend, who was paying for dinner, for another identification card. Now my friend’s credit card had a quarter of a million pesos worth (around 5,000 USD) of credit and the people in our table weren’t dressed in a slipshod manner. The bill was about 400 pesos or almost 8 USD yet the waiter was adamant that we show identification cards. Now I used to be a director for a payment gateway and we were used to transactions over the Internet that didn’t even ask for these kind of ID  – yet here we are – in a restaurant – where people can actually verify our physical location and they were asking their customers to inconvenience themselves by asking for some kind of identification. In addition to that, this restaurant looked like it made a mistake on the bill calculations and actually handed us our bill a few more minutes than usual. In fact, we were the first group to ask for the bill and we ended up paying last. Now, we repeatedly asked the waiter to waive the requirement of the ID – and he kept insisting that we show it. It turns out that one person in our group didn’t bring an ID and they still accepted their credit card. What’s happening here? Someone is not listening. We wanted to have a legitimate conversation with them but the waiter just wanted to mouth what he thought was the company line. What was the result? My friend who paid didn’t want to eat at that restaurant again even though the manager (or someone who seemed to have the posture of one) apologized profusely to us and to just forgive how hard-headed their waiter was. We actually ate around the area every Sunday and now several thing can happen – firstly, we probably won’t eat at that restaurant again; secondly, we would probably tell our friends not to eat at that restaurant again; thirdly, we would probably associate the brand of that restaurant with a kind of hard-headed inconvenience that we previously hadn’t experienced in their other restaurants before; fourthly, we would probably not even consider eating at the other branches of the restaurant and lastly, if I had the time and the energy – I would blog about it so that I will remember what kind of treatment we got there and it can serve as a cautionary tale for other future and would-be patrons. The surprising thing was that their request was actually irrational – with present credit card rules – there was no liability on the part of the restaurant because if there was any fraud – it would all go back to the cardholder and not to the restaurant. So why would they want to invent an arbitrary rule that we’ve never encountered before in any restaurant? We can only hazard a guess but this is exactly what not having a conversation with the market is all about.

2. Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.

People would like to think of markets in terms of their demographics – what gender they are, how old are they, how educated are they, where they live, what kind of salaries they make, where they studied, which university they went to and other interesting demographic bits of information that are usually the boon of every marketing person. But when you think about it – every person that will eventually be passionate about your whatever you are marketing is actually an intersection of several unique things that might be demographically significant but combined together is actually unique. We’re talking about something unique that’s actually like a signature or a fingerprint or a snowflake of which there is one of its kind in the universe.  And there’s a special kind of mindfulness that’s required when you factor in the uniqueness of human beings – on the one hand, the demographic information gives you a clue to where your market might be but on the other hand, when specific and particular persons are now actually engaged and passionate with your product or your idea – you have to engage them as persons and as human beings. Any thing less would actually mean that any attempted conversations with them with demographics in mind would be almost inhumane or sub-human. So while your market might be predominantly male, your pitch that is altered for the male population might not work for the minority that is female. If your market is predominantly a certain age then your pitch might not work for the other ages and if your market is in certain psychographic, then your pitch might not work for those outside that psychographic.. You can continue this thought process to its logical conclusion but the intersection of these particular idiosyncrasies will actually be a human being that will have very specific and very particular differentiations with other human beings that are part of your market. And that is what every person who wants to converse with these human beings need to be aware of – the conversation threads for these interactions are actually going to be be unique to each individual and to treat it differently will make that individual aware that he or she is not being treated as such. And that’s the challenge in the 21st century – we can now interact from a distance, many times across centuries, yet we demand the same uniqueness in the experience the same way that we experience a face-to-face interaction. It’s almost something that you have to guard against – when you compartmentalize people and how we should interact with them in terms of demographic sectors – you might actually be answering their questions by rote and not actually caring what’s on their mind. And this is almost as senseless as trying to fit them into a certain box because people can sense from miles away if you are paying attention. It might be that the next great amazing skill for the 21st century might actually be the ability to maintain an almost superhuman concentration of paying attention to how different one person is from another. Caring about what other people think might actually be a differentiator that’s worth training for and looking into.

3. Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.

The Turing Test (introduced by Alan Turing) is supposed to be an intelligence test for machines that are mimicking the  way humans are supposed to interact with fellow humans. The test is supposedly conducted in such a way that a machine will converse with a human being and the human being will now guess, in the course of a natural language conversation, if the other entity on the other end of the conversation (it goes without saying that this is done via terminals) is a human being or not. If the human being guesses incorrectly and assumes that the entity on the other end is a human being when it is actually not then it can be said that the machine has passed the test. Now here’s the question, can there be a modified Turing test or a reverse Turing test to see if the messages being churned up by corporations are actually done using a standard corporate dogma or is there an actual person behind corporate transactions. There is a certain expectation raised when you continually have a conversation with human beings – we probably habituate to certain nuances and turns-of-phrase that we exhibit during the course of these conversations. Consciously or unconsciously, it’s probable that you internalize these kind of telltale signs that this is what a human-to-human interaction is all about. Imagine now some of the boring, banal, mundane and uncreative campaigns that you’ve seen – can it be that actually know when a certain threshold has been crossed? Can we say that part of the reason that people are bored and actually want a conversation was that those who purvey company rhetoric have guessed wrong to where the future is going. People who actually understood this concept knew that being able to at least speak in a human voice allows them to represent their company with a human face. One might have guessed that with all the automation all around that they would hazard the conclusion that it would be actually need less of a human voice. But that’s what actually happens when there is an aggregation of ideas – sure there are a few that stands out but they should be getting a lot of traction and funding and what’s left behind is still a substantial segment that will notice that there is an averaging out of what kind of responses that can be gathered at one go. But this is not the uniformity that we need to look for – who knows what kind of voice this aggregate sounds like? We all know what a human being’s tone, nuance and voice when we have heard enough but who actually wants to listen and say to themselves – “That sounded robotic, perhaps there’s another way that to say this?”. So you now see to streams of thinking – one that says organization from the ground up and look for what is unique and therefore creates these kind of “conversational” signatures a against something that will probably look for the least common denominators in conversations and just rattle them off .  Learning to speak in a human voice will be something that will everyone will be looking for in the near future and the future is now.


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