Letting the Audience Lead

An anxious mother walked closely behind her son at the Seattle airport. The child, who was barely a toddler, wanted to explorer. The mom wanted to catch him before he “explored” down the escalator.

This delicate dance – son dashing for adventure, mom trying to catch him – went on for minutes. Son goes one way, mom follows – son quickly changes course, forcing mom to turn and run faster. She eventually contains him, but for how long. As soon as he gets a chance you know he’ll be off again.

And I laughed. Not at the mother and child, but at the metaphor.

The mom was the marketer; the toddler was the audience. And the marketer is always trying to catch up to the audience.

Oh sure, we think we know where the audience is going. We have deep analytics and mounds of research. We “engage,” we listen, we react in “real time.”

But the audience is always ahead. And when they do catch up it’s only for a moment, and then the audience is off once more to another web site, another social media platform or another community.

Perfect. This is as it should be — the audience always ahead, the marketer always a step behind.

Or perhaps we are looking at the relationship the wrong way. Maybe the audience isn’t trying to elude, but rather trying to lead.

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