What Don't Our Audiences Know?


In marketing & advertising, we often get trapped in the same rut of broadcasting to our audiences. We attempt to capture their attention and inform them about our brand, products, and services. Audiences respond (or not) with views, clicks, and other methods of response; but in general, the primary information flows one way.

But Broadcasting Has Always Been the Basis of Advertising…


It’s true the broadcast model has been the centerpiece of advertising and marketing. But when you take a step back and look at it through the prism how people actually learn new information, process it, and eventually act upon it, a serious flaw begins to emerge.

There’s an old saying that “assume” makes an ass out of you and me. However, in the marketing and advertising professions, we often make a massive number of assumptions about our target audiences. Sure, we try to understand a few key things about them—gender, age, education, income level, etc.—but, we almost always overlook the most important element: Their base knowledge about the topic/subject that we’re trying to advertise or market.

Understanding Base Knowledge is Key

Without fully understanding what our target audiences know (or just as importantly, don’t know) about the topic at hand, our messaging is nothing more than an educated shot in the dark. We’re left with just very general assumptions about the marketplace and yet every year, we still base billions of dollars of advertising and other marketing activities on those broad assumptions.

Understanding Audience Base Knowledge Allows for Better Segmentation & More Informed Decision Making

In some instances, there’s an assumption of audience ignorance, which is often exploited to drive a desired action. This is often the case with more technical, “high-stakes” markets—think law; taxes, finance, & investments; medical & pharmaceutical, etc.

However, with more straightforward or mundane products & services, we often assume audience knowledge of a topic is obvious or is deeper than it may actually be. Alternatively, we may miss nuances within segments of the marketplace because of this general bias for an audience’s fundamental understanding of a topic.

For example, self-exclusion is a common occurrence in the marketplace. People have a tendency to automatically remove a product or service from their consideration because “it’s not for people like them;” “it’s too fancy;” “it’s too pricey;” or “it’s not necessary in my life.” True, there can be cultural and economic factors at play. But just as often, it’s a lack of understanding or base knowledge of the underlying value and benefits of what’s being sold. And the phenomenon isn’t just with Birken bags or other luxury products. It happens just as often with things like laundry detergent and avocados.

Learning & Assessment Can Provide an Excellent Model for Marketing & Advertising

Educating the marketplace is an oft used axiom in marketing & advertising. But is that what we’re actually doing?

A core principle in the realms of learning and education is to first establish a baseline. Educators initially assess students’ base knowledge of a topic, craft a program of learning & messaging, and then continue to assess and adjust from there. And sometimes that messaging changes based on an individual student’s needs.

In marketing & advertising, we too often rely on general market research (if we’re lucky to have budget for it) or just base our decisions on our broad assumptions of the marketplace and hope for the best.

With a little extra effort, as well as scores of interactive assessment tools out there, we have the opportunity to gain more insight into what our audiences know and don’t know—and make better informed & effective decisions on messaging, segmentation, timing, placements, and more.

A little bit of additional data can save you a huge amount of time, effort, and money. So, what does your audience know? Let’s find out.