The Audience (Formerly Known As The Audience)

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Who is your audience?

On my early morning drive to the airport, I caught the tail-end of Howard Stern interviewing Sheryl Crow. Crow was live and in the studio promoting her upcoming album. The constant reflections and self-commentary on how she’s just a middle-aged white woman, were both self-deprecatinglty funny and illuminating. Even rock stars question their own relevancy every now and again (maybe brands should come at it with the same self-reflection and humour?). As the interview was winding down, Stern asked Crow who this album was created for? Without missing a beat, Crow responded: “who knows who my audience is anymore?” It wasn’t meant to be sarcastic. It wasn’t meant to be self-deprecating. Creatively, Sheryl Crow is in a place, where she’s writing and creating the music that she wants. Her sentiment was meant to mean that if the music feels right, it will find an audience, but it did give pause.

Do you know who your audience is anymore?

At a recent speaking event, the Chief Marketing Officer pulled me aside to ask for some advice. The company was launching a new product aimed at business travellers, and was curious about the best travel apps for these types of consumers. Immediately, a persona of the modern business traveller was being compiled in my mind’s eye…

  • Male.
  • White.
  • Middle-aged.
  • Salt and pepper hair (male pattern baldness).
  • Business suit.
  • Shined shoes.
  • Tumi briefcase.
  • Travelpro carry-on roller (4 wheeler).
  • Bose noise-cancelling headphones.
  • iPhone but PC laptop.
  • Funky socks.
  • Interesting glasses.
  • Airline status luggage tags.
  • Lounge access.

Do you see this modern business traveller persona in your mind’s eye?

I imagined this individual pulling into the airport in their Audi and whisking through security with their Global Entry. Back to this morning and Sheryl Crow. As I sat in the airport lounge (the modern business traveller’s home away from home), I reflected on my conversation with this CMO and looked around. There must have been about 150 modern business travellers in the mist. Maybe four of them looked like the persona above. In fact, even if closer to eighty percent of them matched the persona above, I wondered how many of their personal interests, traits and purchasing habits were similar? I’m guessing close to zero beyond their own self-image desires to look like this “modern business traveller.”

Personas and analytics are not the audience.

Is it possible that personas and your analytics are not your audience? Is it possible that it’s getting harder and harder to gather up all of your audience members, and paint a brush of similarity across them all? Think about the last concert that you went to. Think about your last shopping experience. Diversity isn’t just about how brands hire or how your kid’s playground looks at recess. With so much access to information, connectivity, global marketplaces and more, perhaps everyday is a winding road (as Sheryl Crow sings) when trying to figure out who your true audience is?

Who is my audience?

Often, before I start recording my podcast, this is the question that a guest will ask me. I’d like to think that the audience for Six Pixels of Separation – The Mirum Podcast is senior marketing professionals and the senior leadership of large national and multi-national brands. This is what the persona and analytics would lead me to believe. Then, the reality of emails and meeting people out in the wild and in their protein forms completely cracks that model. In fact, many brand leaders act surprised when they meet their consumers, mostly because they look nothing like the personas that were built and are being marketed against. 

New thinking around audiences and targeting.

Who do you think has a keen understanding of their audience? Which brands have nailed it? And, most importantly, is it truly able to lump them all into a similar bucket (or two)? Candidly, when I think of a “senior marketing professional” and counter that with the thousands (yes, thousands) of marketing professionals that I have met over the years, perhaps the only thing that they have in common is their job title and interest in the field of marketing. Is that enough to get a fair beat on who the audience is, and how to best connect with them? Doubtful. Brands that think they know who their audience. They may well have data, but may also be lacking a true depth of perspective into their consumers’ true wants, needs, desire and personality. We’ve built this world for diversity. Now that we have it, perhaps we need to re-define what a brand’s audience truly is?

Building an audience is critical. Understanding their diversity is the new brand imperative. Would you agree?