As I write this, I am considering buying a new car. As it is for billions of other global consumers, the web is my primary source of information when I consider a purchase. So I sat down at the computer and began poking around.
Figuring they were the natural place to begin my research, I started with some major automaker sites. That was a big mistake. I was assaulted on the homepages with a barrage of TV-style broadcast advertising. And most of the one-way messages focused on price. For example, at the end of 2016 at Ford,1 the all-capital-letters headline screamed, “YEAR END EVENT FINAL DAYS. UP to $1,500 TOTAL CASH.” Dodge2 announced a similar offer: “BIG FINISH 2016. GET 20% OFF MSRP.” Other manufacturers touted similar flashy offers.
I'm not planning to buy a car in the next 100 hours, thank you. I may not even buy one within 100 days! I'm just kicking the virtual tires. These sites and most others assume that I'm ready to buy a car right now. But I actually just wanted to learn something. Sure, I got graphics and animation, TV commercials, pretty pictures, and low financing offers on these sites, but little else.
I looked around for some personality on these sites and didn't find much, because the automaker websites portray their organizations as nameless, faceless corporations. In fact, the sites I looked at are so similar that they're effectively interchangeable. At each site, I felt as if I was being ...