‘Audience’ is an enterprise orthodoxy and marketing convenience from the broadcast age. It makes sense to utilize the audience buying approach when it comes to segmenting the world but it’s completely useless when it comes to actually talking to people. Because great advertising (Using the specific to shine a bright light on the general) is now 0.01% of all advertising, audience buying tends to utilize crude pandering (Appeal to women by turning men into complete idiots) or silly assumptions that being born in a certain time equals a particular way of looking at the world. 

People, customers, markets and segments aren’t that simple. Marketing Departments and agencies would love to believe that but reality doesn’t align with the wish list of marketers. Suburban moms are also physicians, rebels, dreamers and small business owners. Segmenting your customers into audiences reduces people to the lowest common denominator and is almost never helpful. 

Segmenting is a relic of the non-digital age

The real opportunity of digital is that you don’t need to segment people anymore. They segment themselves by looking for the things they want to do and their digital behavior. 

Instead of falling into the trap of audience buying, you need to focus on user needs. Figure out the things people are trying to do and then make it as simple and quick for them as possible. 

It becomes very easy to define success, it’s easy to iterate and improve. You talk to and work with users in order to help them do something. You only need to understand ‘who they are’ in as much as it provides a context and background to help them do things.

Out of these observations, you get rather quickly to the point where you’re serving many needs at once. You start to discover common needs and patterns: When people do A they also seem to want to do B, trying to help them get done B much easier by grouping things together. 

Don’t rely on segmenting assumptions. Rely on actions. 

You start to optimize your digital work based on actions not some silly segmentation assumptions about how your marketing department loves to see the world. 

Our typical marketing thinking of brand, audiences and messages are not helpful in the digital reality. Digital is not just another media channels, it is already the entire platform for any business. 

As more brands start to realize that the key to long, profitable and pleasant relationships is great digital service delivery – not advertising message delivery – we will see the end of audience buying thinking and the advent of activity thinking.