Now is the time for brands to own their audiences

  • The advertising landscape is rapidly changing. This provides an opportunity to those brands that are able to adapt to secure ownership over their audience that will deliver lasting returns.
  • Brands that don’t adapt will forever pay to access someone else’s audience, whether that is a television network or a YouTube influencer.

The advertising landscape is shifting, and brands that move fast may be able to secure themselves ownership of audiences that deliver lasting returns. Brands that don’t will be forever paying for access to someone else’s audience, whether that is a television network or a YouTube sensation.

That was the message of Steve Crombie, CEO of Totem, a social video advisory firm and studio, at the Tripartite Economic Summit in Auckland. Sitting alongside influencers and influence economy executives such as Tom Cassell and Angelo Pullen of 3BlackDot, and Keiko Bang of LIC-Bang Media, Crombie provided a crash course in how companies can make paying top dollar for their services less necessary.

The case study is Alain de Botton, who created The School of Life, an organisation to promote and educate about better living practices. Despite de Botton being one of the leading thinkers and writers in the world, he was experiencing a ceiling on the audience he could reach. “[Advertising through] traditional media was very cost-ineffective and there were many layers between him and his audience,” says Crombie.

After embarking on a process described by Crombie as “discover, think, and build,” de Botton launched a YouTube channel for the School of Life, he became more responsive to what his audience actually wanted to hear. “Once the School of Life created trust and actually created a meaningful connection with their audience, his whole world changed,” says Crombie.

By June 2016, the number of subscribers had grown to over 1.1 million and the channel had generated over 70 million views. The number of physical schools within the organisation grew similarly, from two to 12 in just over two years.

“He understood them, he understood what they wanted, and he gave them what they required.” -Steve Crombie

“The only thing that changed in his communication strategy was his YouTube channel and how he communicated with that audience,” says Crombie. “He understood them, he understood what they wanted, and he gave them what they required.”

“There’s a very big difference between what the brand wants to push onto the audience, versus what the audience actually wants,” Crombie explains. Businesses need to identify the incongruence between those desires, and map out a strategy to deal with it.

If brands can develop such an audience of their own, they will start to enjoy benefits on a number of levels: cost is reduced; data access is increased, and the connection to the audience is more direct. “It really has enabled him to become an influencer.”

In good news for the other panellists, Crombie indicated that he thought independent influencers, such as YouTubers, will always play a role. “They’re extremely valuable to grow your business – but ensure that you leverage that investment so that you the brand can become the influencer.”

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