What is audience-first marketing?

Welcome to ‘Know your audience’ in this mini-cast, each episode is only ten minutes. We dissect the concept of audience-first and what it means to be truly audience first. Your hosts, Dr. James Piecowye and Paul Kelly take you on a short, impactful journey into the world of audience-first marketing and how to think better about who it is you’re talking with.


Dr. James Piecowye: Welcome to know your audience, a marketing mini cast that explores how really knowing an audience can unlock greater insight and opportunity. I’m Dr. James Piecowye, and for over 20 years, I’ve been teaching students at Zayed University how by better understanding the process of communication, they can become better content creators. And I’m a content creator myself who puts theory to practice in micro-events through my podcast and on my YouTube channel.

Paul Kelly: And I’m Paul Kelly, Founder and Managing Partner of D/A.  We help marketing leaders better understand and connect with consumers in the Arab world. D/A has developed a new standard of AI-driven technology called Sila that can understand and analyse Arabic dialects. I’ve been living in Dubai since 2004, and have been with D/A since 2010.

James: In this series, we’re going to give you bite-sized pieces of insight on how to build an audience-first strategy. We will be exploring the not-so-common-sense notion of what an audience is right through to measurement of that audience, and in the end, you’ll be better equipped to build a sustainable brand and bring it to market.

Paul: We’ll be taking you through the process 10 minutes at a time. Short, sharp, insight-driven conversation from everything I’ve learned a D/A and everything James has learned through his prolific content creation, curation, and academic pursuits. This is the first series of many where we’ll share our insights that will help you and your thinking about marketing and the audience challenges that you face. Please reach out to us in any of the ways listed in the description of each episode with any feedback questions or comments that you might have.

James: So let’s begin. In this episode, we’re talking basics and what audience first means, and why digital today might actually be overloading us with information and blinding us to the simple understanding of our customers. Paul, I want to kick off our conversation with what is this idea of an audience-first strategy, really all about?

Paul: Really ‘audience first’, the clues in the name, without being facetious or anything at all it is about looking at what an audience is, what they mean, and how we can better reach those from any kind of perspective, this could be a brand, product, could be a piece of content, it could be the music that I create, it could be anything. But it’s about understanding who’s going to consume what it is that I’m making and being able to better reach them through just being smarter about who they are and what they do and what they’re into and what their preferences are. You know, that’s it in a really simple nutshell.

James: Haven’t we always been dealing with an audience-first strategy?

Paul: Yes. Probably for the longest time, and I think a lot of marketers particularly have lost the way with a significant amount of data that comes through, for example, from various digital sources. I think the advent of digital has democratised the way content is distributed to an extent that I didn’t think could have been even imagined in the previous five years. So you sort of looking at these five-year windows, you know, Facebook’s been around since the mid-2000s, for example, but look at its product offering now compared to them, so that democratisation of content that’s been brought about by digital has been, I think, great because it allows us to reach much bigger audiences than previously ever imagined. But it also streams data back to us about what the audience is liking and what they’re into. And then also the platform’s themselves tend to sort of tell us, particularly from a marketing perspective, if I’m talking about sort of product marketing, or brand marketing, where they sort of talk about people’s attention and how the product needs to, you know, the brand name needs to appear in the first five seconds, or three seconds or two seconds, that type of thing. And all of this data comes at us. And I think what’s happened in the last 10 to 15 years has been a slow erosion of knowing who it is we’re talking to, and then layering that data with our own research data. And all those sorts of things create so many data points that sometimes we miss that. I think if you think back to the early advent of particular media platforms, like radio, TV, and the specialisations that different TV channels, radio stations brought with them, they inherently understood who the audience was, and would create content and stories and programs that sort of suited what their audience’s interests were.  We’ve lost that to a certain degree, we have a lot more power at our hands, so if we understand the data a lot better and if we simplify that data and really take a step back, and it can be so much more powerful, but it’s been lost somewhere, this gets fuzzy with that flow of a constant set of numbers. And data is great, but data is for observation and no matter how smart AI is, it’s helping you observe. Insight comes from data. And that’s the important thing that’s missing. That’s the human layer that’s often missing from data. When we follow it too blindly, we get too far down rabbit holes where performance of how an ad performs, which is obviously really important, but how that ad is made, to begin with, needs a lot more thought about who’s going to consume it, which will then improve effectiveness and all those sorts of things rather than just blindly following; ‘Oh, I need to put my logo in the first 1.5 seconds of a video’. So yeah, to circle right back to that question, we do know, have always done it, but I think it’s sort of been obfuscated over the last while by this just torrent in a stream of data.

James: So through this series of conversations that you and I are going to have, we’re going to help marketers, we’re going to help data analysts, we’re going to help those folks who are trying to bring attention to their product, make better sense of what the audience today is thinking, saying and doing.

Paul: Yeah, what we really want people to do is take a step back, look at their data in a different way. Think about those core principles of marketing, which haven’t changed. I’m not here to say that the four P’s, which is the famous, you know, price, product, place promotion, the four Ps of marketing has been around since 67; since McCarthy’s basic marketing, that hasn’t changed, that’s still the core driver of marketing success. But it’s what happens within those four P’s that really has changed, and it’s what how we then get better placement or better promotion, or how we can refine our products better to reach those audiences and sort of not here to say, I think and certainly, our conversations around this, that we’re not, or, there’s no fundamental changes with this,  it’s just more the thinking that has to go into that’s altering. So hopefully, the tools will come through that you need to better be able to respond to these changes.

James: There we go. So what is this series all about? Taking the four P’s price, product placement, and promotion, and creating a better understanding of what has changed inside them when we talk about consumers today. Our goal is simple; to give you the tools to better respond to the changes happening around us.

You can get in touch with me across the socials @thejamescast or thejamescast.com

Paul: And get in touch with me both through d-a.co that’s the website or otherwise, email me directly at [email protected] Thanks for listening.

James: Know your audience.  Audience first; for the digital generation.