OK, I haven't read the book. So I may have this wrong. Maybe. But look at the most recent issue of Fortune Magazine (January 10, 2000) and you'll see a book review of "Now or Never: How Companies Must Change Today to Win the Battle for Internet Consumers," by Mary Modahl, a VP at Forrester Research.

Here is just a snippet of what the review (written by Anne Fisher) says, and this is what set me off to writing a letter to the editor.

"The first thing she wants you to understand (and boy, has she documented it) is that the traditional truisms about consumer behavior are, when it comes to online retailing, just plain wrong. Age, race, gender, the (always slightly creepy) compilations of data about what kind of person lives in which zip code - forget all that. Modahl's survey of 250,000 U.S. households shows that what matter most is each consumer's attitude toward technology itself, ranging from eagerly accepting to profoundly suspicious."

Why am I skeptical? Pick up any copy of the Journal of Marketing or the Journal of Marketing Research (in fact, the copy can come from the 1970s) and you'll see studies that have already documented these facts.

Anyway, here is a copy of the email I sent to the editors of Fortune Magazine (by the way, the editors informed me on Monday (1/3/2000) that this will be in the next issue of Fortune).


I read the book review of Mary Modahl's book (Now or Never) and was amused by Anne Fisher's statement that "the traditional truisms about consumer behavior are, when it comes to online retailing, just plain wrong." Having not read Modahl's book, I can only assume this statement reflects the book's content. But let's be clear. Consumer researchers in academic institutions have known for over thirty years that race, gender and compilations of data from zip codes is an inappropriate way to break out a consumer market. The long history on adoption of innovations have long indicated what now is called a "new" way of thinking about consumer's attitudes towards technology itself. Please, spend more time becoming acquainted with what academics have known and studied for years and you won't be impressed with this so-called brand new way of thinking. It isn't.

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Allen Weiss is founder, CEO, and Positioning Practice Lead at MarketingProfs. Over the years he has worked with companies such as Texas Instruments, Informix, Vanafi, and EMI Music Distribution to help them position their products defensively in a competitive environment. He is also the founder of Insight4Peace and the former director of Mindful USC.