What is Audience Relevance & Why Should Brands Know This?

Audience relevance may seem like a buzzword, but it’s not.

Why this matters:

The better data insights you have, the more relevant you will be to your target audience conversation they can have with their customers. It’s a win-win for everyone involved. The below audience relevance model ensures that your supply of content meets the demand of your audience.

What is Audience Relevance?

One definition of an audience is a “group of admirers or devotees.” Relevance is the state of relating to being closely connected. From a brand perspective, audience relevance is how the brand relates to people—customers, prospects, the media, influencers, and the general public.

To be relevant to an audience, brands must speak the same language. Use the exact words they use. Share a similar tone of voice. And above all, they share the same values. I just read the Prophet Brand Relevance Index. They surveyed 13,500 consumers in the US to determine which bands they can’t live without.

And as you’d expect, brands like Apple, Spotify, Netflix, and Bose were all on this list. And the reason why is simple. They all have all amazing products and services. They drive value, utility, and an emotional connection with their customers.

When I was 14, I asked my mom to buy me a pair of Converse Weapons Basketball shoes for Christmas. They just came out in my favorite team’s color. I’m a Lakers fan, and Magic Johnson is one of my favorite players of all time. They were almost $100, but I desperately wanted them. I was planning on trying out for the 8th-grade basketball team, and I remember telling myself that if I had those shoes, I’d be able to play, shoot and pass just like Magic.

And this is exactly how Converse wanted me to feel at the young age of 14. The is an emotional connection. That is how Converse was relevant to me growing up. It’s a part of my heritage, history, and childhood.

But what about those brands that aren’t Nike, Spotify, or Netflix? What about those brands that didn’t make the top 50 or top 100, or even 1000?

How do they become relevant to an audience? How do they become someone’s legacy? How do they drive a connection with consumers, and how do they become relevant to consumers’ everyday lives?

The Economic Model of Audience Relevance in Marketing

That’s what we are here to talk about today–audience relevance. How do you become relevant to an audience through brand storytelling? I want to contextualize this through economics, specifically supply & demand.

Now supply and demand is the relationship between the price companies want to see their products and the price consumers are willing to pay. The result is determined by the market’s interaction of supply and demand. The more of something there is, the less valuable it is. Conversely, the more people want something, the more valuable it is.

This model starts with audience demand. Specifically, what are the stories, topics, and trends that are demanding the attention of your audience?

An image of audience demand.

Now we are looking at three different audiences here, and if you work in marketing, your audience will be different than if you work in PR. So, for example, for traditional media, we are talking about journalists. And if you do work in PR, then you want to understand the stories and topics they are writing about and at what frequency.

Maybe you are trying to reach a core group of influencers. Perhaps reporters, journalists, or non-media tech influencers. In all cases, these are the people driving the conversation, building markets and categories, and creating buzzwords.

This has more impact than you think. Audience relevance and search can make the difference between ranking high on Google in driving thousands of prospects to your website or being entirely out of sight and out of mind resulting in a loss of millions in revenue.

The last category here is audiences. A relevant audience could be IT decision-makers, a group of CIOs, the developer audience, or moms, 18-35, who live in Chicago and LA and are interested in sports and entertainment.

Regardless of who this audience is, you’ll need to understand their psychology. What are they talking about? What are they passionate about? What channels and hashtags do they use most often? To understand the people that matter to your business, you need to analyze that specific audience. You can get this type of information from brand monitoring.

You must understand what media outlets are about and what topics drive their headlines. If influencers, you need to understand what’s top of mind for them.

Audience analysis can tell us these things. It can give us these unique insights into the audiences we are trying to reach.

But that’s only half of the equation of audience relevance in marketing and communications channels.

Flipping the Model: What Does Audience Relevance Mean?

Audience relevance means that brands must create content and tell stories that match what’s important to their customers. It’s not complicated at all. The other half of the model is to self-assess your brand and the content and stories you distribute in the marketplace.

Understanding, analyzing, and predicting what’s important to each of these groups is essential. Doing so will help plan the supply of data-driven content, the angles, the narrative, where it’s distributed, and so on:

  • Owned content: Long-form content like blogs, press releases, web content, etc.
  • Earned media: The stories that the media writes about your business.
  • Social content: Organic, paid, and short-form content in social media.

This is being relevant to the market–the media, influencers, customers, partners–essentially your entire audience. When you imitate your audience and use their language, keywords, phrases, etc., you systematically put yourselves on the same playing field. As a result, your brand becomes more human, relatable, and trustworthy.

At times, relevance can breed white space. White space is a small corner in the market about a specific topic that no one else owns – think Southwest’s “Transfarency” – a philosophy in which Southwest’s customers are treated honestly and fairly, and low fares stay low—no unexpected bag fees, change fees, or hidden fees. No other airline can claim this position. Southwest owns it.

Other benefits of brand relevance include search. Coverage and conversations typically imitate search behavior. If you are creating content using the same language and buzzwords as your audience groups, all of a sudden, you may own all the real estate on Google’s search engine results page.

That is brand relevance.

Regardless of what branded content you analyze, you must ask yourself if you are meeting the audience’s demand with your content supply. This can only be done by using social analytics tools.

Here’s a Quick Audience Relevance Example

Let’s assume you are a sneaker company, and your audience consists of millennials who live in colder climates. Your shoes offer special padding that keeps the feet warm with extra thick laces for insulation.

Let’s say you analyze an audience of millennials in Seattle. Maybe they aren’t sneakerheads, and that’s ok. But when they are talking about shoes, the conversation for them is more about slipping them on and off when they go indoors and outdoors.

When you analyze the content you publish, your message is about keeping your feet warm.

You can see that in this scenario, the company is meeting its audience’s demand with its content supply.

The problem with most brands is that they publish messaging that doesn’t align with their audiences. They create personas in a vacuum without real data and say, “our audience is this, and this is what they care about,” with zero data to back it up.

So this model of audience relevance helps us look deep into what audiences care about and gives us the intelligence to create content that aligns with those conversations, emotions, and topics.

Now the challenge in some cases is that you may have multiple audiences, so you’ll have to prioritize who you go after. In either case, audience insights will give you the insights to create data-driven marketing programs.

Audience Relevance FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Is audience relevance the same as brand relevance?

Yes, it’s the same. It’s just looking at it through a different lens.

Are there any tools or platforms to use for uncovering audience relevance?

Yes, but it depends on what you are analyzing. If the audience is traditional media, I have curated a list of media monitoring platforms for consideration. If your audience is a group of influencers or specific audiences, I have curated a list of social media monitoring tools and audience intelligence platforms. You’ll need both.

Michael Brito

Michael Brito is a Digital OG. He’s been building brands online since Al Gore invented the Internet. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.