Wow, it’s been a little over 90 days since we joined the W2O family. For any company that is getting assimilated, one of the keys to success is observing the organization and figuring out how you fit in and what you can contribute to the business as a whole. One of the things that attracted us to W2O, aside from the all-star team, was our keen focus on analytics and empowering our services via software. Essentially, we’re saying that we value the ability to be accurate and to scale how we service our customers. This is music to our ears (especially since we help power the software part) and, in my opinion, the future model of agencies (software + analytics + service). But what unites the firm under a common purpose across these three disciplines? Audiences. That is the common bond in our company and our purpose is to identify, understand, and engage with audiences. All kinds of audiences.
I feel like James Michener as I type this post… “it all started when the earth cooled,” but the reality is a little CRM and mass marketing anthropology is needed to understand the future. So to put things in perspective, the concept of communicating to an audience heralds back to the Egyptians who put hieroglyphics on papyrus to make sales messages or announcements. Soon after came the invention of the Phoenician alphabet to ensure messages were accurately delivered between traveling maritime merchants. The next big evolution of audience engagement didn’t occur until the advent of Greek theatre and politics, which might even be considered the earliest origin of mass marketing. It was there in those ancient amphitheaters that messages were disseminated to large or small groups of people through storytelling or one-by-one messages.
It took the mid 1400’s and the invention of the Gutenberg press for another major transformation of audience. Now the ability for ideas to spread and for knowledge to democratize was a function of ink and paper. The ability to get a message en masse became an art form, but was still limited by time and distance. It wasn’t until the 1800’s, the proliferation of newspapers, and then industrial revolution, that we saw the incarnation of mass communication and mass marketing. The science/art of marketing and PR were born to leverage these new tools to reach and influence as many people as possible. Using these blunt instruments of push marketing, they sold products, changed opinions, moved markets, and educated the masses. The science of demography was adopted so that better targeting could be applied to getting the messages to the right audiences, but again, very wide swaths of understanding people. Not until the internet, and especially the invention of cookies and social media, have we had tools that truly help us narrowly understand individuals, but then be able to group them by common behaviors and affinities.
The path from understanding and connecting to blasting messages is irrefutable. But the science of audiences intrigues me and the whole W2O family. With technological advancements we have an unprecedented ability to truly understand people at scale as individuals, and against specific , not a crude clustering based on broad terms. For James and myself, creating the toolset that helps us discover, understand, and engage with audiences is an incredible challenge. Audiences are amorphous entities and vary tremendously between four key factors. The lenses required to hone in on those factors remind me of the tools used by optologists to determine your requirements for glasses.
The first key mechanism for understanding audiences actually start with you, the viewer. Depending on your position within an organization you interpret your audience very differently than your colleagues, despite you working for the same company. Here are some key examples within our team:
- Brandon Farley, our community manager, views his audience as all of our users.
- Guy Peluso, our sales director, views all wineries not using our software as his audience.
- Glen Parker, our happiness engineer, views wineries that are not optimized as his audience.
- Ani Araya-Byrd who runs PR views press as her audience.
- Marisa Massie, finance, views the people that have their credit card on file as her audience.
It’s easy to see that the audience originates from the eye of the beholder.
The second key mechanism for understanding audiences is how the audiences are being clustered: time, location, behavioral affinities and interests (e.g. wine), someone’s relationship to a brand (customer, advocate, fan, detractor), relationship clusters (friends, family, co-workers, etc.) and more.
The third key mechanism is business intent: how are we trying to get the audience to activate? You look at audiences differently depending on what message you want to deliver so, how you want to engage, what do you need to activate/convert, and/or what do you want to learn?
The last key mechanism is actually my favorite, which I’ll call chiaroscuro audiences. Chiaroscuro is an art form that uses strong contrast of light and dark and is sometimes expressed as “bringing light from the dark.” The art was brought back and represented in the comic book and movie series Sin City. Chiaroscuro audiences are the missing audiences – These are the ones that are not visible, and understanding them is equally important. For example: I launch a new skateboard and I analyze all the audiences. Through my analysis, I find that only men between the ages of 30-45 are buying the product, which means the chiaroscuro audiences of young skateboarders not buying it become the audience we need to analyze, and understand their lack of affinity for my skateboard.
By creating a tool that can adjust all those lenses singularly or in tandem we empower ways to see and understand audiences unlike any firm in history.