What is the future of digital technology? “We don’t really care. The audience is going to tell us where technology is going to go. Whatever the audience wants to do, we’ll find a way to be there.” said Chuck Porter of Crispen Porter + Bogusky. He was interviewed by Jeromy Llyod of Marketing Magazine in Toronto recently when he spoke at the Canadian Marketing Association‘s Digital Marketing Conference.
And that is at the heart of the challenge facing marketers. Identifying where audiences are today and where they might be tomorrow. The seemingly endless migration to new places, spaces, platforms and communities can be maddening to keep up with. But chasing the online crowds is not the real issue, is it?
The real challenge is to think beyond just being “there” (wherever “there” happens to be) and develop real insights along with rapid-cycle experimentation oriented around what individuals (not audiences) actually want to do.
Phrased another way, the task at hand is think through how we move beyond the “where” in the equation. Showing up in the place where the audience has landed is but a fraction of the consideration. Consumers themselves are not looking simply for a “where” anymore, so why are marketers?
We can’t pretend that we have any sort of captive audience for our messages anymore even if we are in the right place at the right time. Those days are long gone. As Chuck Porter suggests, the digital space is being defined and grown by the audience itself. Can we even call them an “audience” anymore given the traditional understanding of what audience means and how people are go about using the online world?
Online crowds gravitate and congregate to the “where” because of “what” it offers them and “how” it delivers an experience they can’t get anywhere else. It is clear to them “why” they are engaged enough to spend precious time and, “who” they are in terms of the sense of identity as part of a community. The marketing opportunity is to step back and figure out what it takes to be relevant and valuable. Asking some of the following questions may help:
– “What” is the purpose for crashing the party? What is your reason for being? What to you hope to give, not just gain?
– “Why” would anyone pay attention? Why here? Why now? Just because you can does not mean you should.
– “How” can your brand participate and add layers to the experience? How are you building credibility and community? How are you differentiating yourself? How are you building a sustainable platform? How are you learning and measuring?
– “Who” is your audience? Who do you hope to influence? Who will care? Who will see your efforts as an enhancement to what they are already doing?
Looking at things in that light, “where” is perhaps the easiest question to answer. In order to redefine “where” as a pivot point for success, the question to ask is “where do we want to take an audience“?
I believe Chuck means brands should uncover the ways they can enable something to happen, perhaps even something meaningful, regardless of “where” it takes place. It means thinking in terms of educating, informing, sharing, empowering, motivating, entertaining, providing utility and functionality etc. All good things to keep in mind.
What we do know it is not about another banner ad or consumer generated content contest to generate videos on YouTube. Those are simply tactical attempts to address “where”. They have been done to death over a very short window of time. The harder part to get right is credibility, which means working on a better model than simply buying your way in.
Marketers can’t forget that they are part of the audience too. So, what would you really want from you? As David Ogilvy famously said “The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife.” Hey, no one said it would be easy.