How to Build an Audience of Consumers

Today, brands market and sell their products in an environment that is more competitive than ever. Consumers are subjected to so much marketing content that it is hard for any one brand to stand out, leaving them trying in vain to outshout their competitors. Products are so advanced that even the most basic models far exceed people’s needs, and innovations lead to, at best, short-term marginal share gain as they are quickly met by competitors.

Perhaps the only truly sustainable competitive advantage remaining is having a deeper, better understanding of – and relationship with – the people who do, or may, buy your product.

Peter Minnium, president of Ipsos Connect explains that achieving this is clearly challenging: All brands have access to essentially the same data – on consumers, media targeting, social networks, purchases and so on – as well as the same analytical tools and expertise.

The Pushmi-Pullyu of Brand Engagement

Real competitive advantage won’t be found by looking harder in the same old places; it requires a paradigm shift in how brands view and engage with people. Successful brands will treat people as an audience whose protracted engagement must be cultivated, rather than imagining them exclusively as consumers whose immediate choices are to be influenced.

Like the woolly pushmi-pullyu of Doctor Doolittle fame, this holistic strategy must unite the need to compel action with a newfound ability to capture the audience’s imagination, pulling them into the brand narrative just as much as it pushes them to buy.

The typical push approach is familiar to everyone with any exposure to the advertising business: The population is segmented, targets are built, and likely buyers are interrupted with ads designed to drive awareness and purchase intent. The process is often understood to be both mechanistic and unilateral.

The pull approach is closer to the strategy of entertainment companies seeking to build an audience: Loyalty and enthusiasm are constructed on a foundation of compelling content, and are maintained by an attentiveness to how the content is received.

Five steps to building an audience of consumers

To achieve a sustainable competitive advantage in a time of relative equivalence in marketing methods, it is imperative to combine the push with the pull. Here are five steps to start the journey:

  1. Recognize your customer’s duality
  2. See the consumer in three dimensions
  3. Sell the story, then the brand
  4. Produce a story system
  5. Measure what matters

Audience + Consumers = Competitive Advantage

In this hypercompetitive world, too many of us are sticking to the “tried and true” of push marketing and consequently failing to distinguish ourselves. Any impact will thus be negligible and short-lived, lasting only until the novelty of the newest doohickey is surpassed. The “madtech” mashup creates new challenges, but also a historic opportunity to change the way brands build audiences of consumers – and create a sustainable advantage.

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