Audience Sovereignty

Business owners around the world have been freaked out about Social Media. There is this scary buzz in business management communities about silencing the audience, suing them when they turn on you,  and the delusion of “controlling the message” of the masses. But marketers forgot something along the way…

The audience has a voice, and your brand is owned by the customer.

You may say, “But social media is a new thing, and this is the first time my audience has had a voice.” WRONG. News flash, it is not new.

I listened to a Freakonomics Podcast called “Boo…Who?” a few weeks back that said that Audiences, when it comes to entertainment performances, have been “loosing their sovereignty”. In recent times people are more and more content to sit quietly in the dark and listen without engagement. This is not how it used to be. Audiences were expected to react, to interact.  Huzzah’s. Boo’s. Hisses. People heckled and booed poor performances, but today we are conditioned to sit through crap.

I argue that the Television has turned us into a world of one-way consumers. We’ve bought the lie since the end of the Great Depression and WWII: “We will feed you, and you will consume whatever we dish out.” The options were limited, times had been tough, and people were thrilled to live vicariously through TV’s stories: I Love Lucy, Bonanza, The Andy Griffith Show, Dallas, the Cosby Show, 60-minutes, and now today’s American Idol. In 2009 I read how TV show themes and stories have been great indicators of the times (I have since been unable to find that book I read in Auckland: sorry no reference). But perhaps it is more that our collective moods and actions reflected the shows we lived through. That we consumed and have lived as we were told.

Marketers and TV producers have pitched junk at us for decades, and time after time we sat down in front of the TV sifting through 600+ channels complaining that “there is nothing good on.” But what were you going to do, write a letter to the station? Bang on the door of the producer? Start your own station? “Nah, the heck with it, I’ll just drink my beer and watch this crap,” settling for whatever. But something has changed. Have you noticed that YouTube is now the second largest search engine in the world (which happens to be owned by the 1st – you know who :).

Once upon a time the audience was sovereign, and it still has the ability to be; everyone has simply been conditioned to sit-tight and take it. Business marketers joined the bandwagon and were happy to “control the message.” But they forgot that a brand is not a bunch of cool colors and a catchy name. A brand is how you are perceived. A brand is what you stand for, what I think you are, that experiences I have had and shared with and about you. They weren’t expecting the internet to be the megaphone that is freely shared.

The audience has a voice, and your brand is owned by the customer.

The fact is your customers have always owned you, but businesses found a way to ignore it for a while. The internet has reminded the audience of its birthright, and allowed it reclaim its throne, but surely as the coming summer, the audience will reign supreme again. Transparency, honesty, and ethical business are the only ways to survive. Treat your customers well, for they truly define who you are.

Thank you for reading my blog – Daniel S. Herr.
If you are interested, I invite you to follow me on Twitter @DanHerr
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