I’m sure you’ve heard the expression that “knowledge is power.” A version of that saying has been around for a long time, so much so that a version is found in the Bible. This is what Wikipedia says it means:
Though its meaning varies from author to author, the phrase often implies that with knowledge or education, one’s potential or abilities in life will certainly increase. Having and sharing knowledge is widely recognized as the basis for improving one’s reputation and influence, thus power. This phrase may also be used as a justification for a reluctance to share information when a person believes that withholding knowledge can deliver to that person some form of advantage. Another interpretation is that the only true power is knowledge, as everything (including any achievement) is derived from it.
We hear about “confidential information” all the time in business. The state version of that is “Top Secret.” Yet does such information exist? We humans have done a wonderful job of putting nearly all the world’s information into the hands of anyone who seeks it. We can ask our mobile devices just about any question and gain knowledge. Every confidentiality agreement I’ve ever signed always exempts information one can find “publicly available” or obtained from other sources. Those are increasingly easy to find and readily available.
Brands used to know more about their products than did consumers – how well it performed, how well priced it was for that performance versus the competition. That information was hard to obtain and so the brands had the power as they dispensed only the knowledge that wanted consumers to have. Local retailers and services used to be able to keep mediocrity a local secret. Have you tried a new restaurant win the last few years without checking out the online reviews?
Knowledge IS power, but the power had shifted to the masses. Advertising, which is how brands used to impart the knowledge they wanted consumers to have, is increasingly ignored. Consumers are educating themselves. I think brands and businesses that behave as if they know more than their customers or partners are going to lose. Do you?