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Know Your Audience Before You Make Content for Them—Here’s How

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To create compelling content for your brand, you need to know your audience. But what does “knowing your audience” really mean? Which audience? And how much do you need to know about them? As the president of Bleacher Report, Rory Brown, told Digiday, “You can reach so many more people [in this era], but the definition of audience is murkier than ever.”

And when it comes to endeavors like creating branded shows, a podcast, or even an ad campaign, your potential audience suddenly expands beyond those who are just interested in learning more about your product or service. This is great news, but it also brings us back to that tricky question — how do you know who you should actually be making content for in the first place?

“How do you know who you should actually be making content for in the first place?”

Determining your audience is a key part of the creative process that should happen before you even pick up a camera or jot down a script. So, let’s start narrowing down who makes up that nebulous audience of yours!

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Whether you set out to make a video series, a documentary, or heck, even a docu-series, looking to your brand values for guidance is a great place to start. Your brand values define your company more broadly than your main product or service does, and ultimately guide your business’ core purpose and personality. Chances are, you probably already have a consensus on what those values are, so dust off that internal document of yours that covers them in detail, because you’re going to want to reference this! Let these brand values be your starting point for understanding your audience and the types of content they might be interested in consuming.

Here at Wistia, for example, creativity is one of our core brand values. We try to be creative in the way we approach everything from developing products and producing videos to funding our business and delighting our customers. As a company who invests in creativity, we know that our customers rely on us to look at problems differently and solve them in ways they may not have thought of before.

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So, when it came to deciding on a theme that would resonate with our audience for our first-ever docu-series, One, Ten, One Hundred, exploring the relationship between money and creativity seemed like the perfect fit. Leaning on this brand value helped us reach more people who are just as passionate as we are about being creative, regardless of your budget.

How to incorporate brand values into your content strategy:

Use your brand values as headers for lists of topics to brainstorm. These topics can start off pretty broad, i.e. under “Creativity” you could write down topics like “Freelancing” or “Photography.” Then, pressure-test your topics by simply polling your current customers, blog-readers, and social media followers. You can always send out a survey with a tool like SurveyMonkey, but nowadays you can do polls on social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter. Get a consensus around the areas your audience is most interested in. Later on, you’ll narrow these down and get even more specific about the execution of the content itself.

How this helps you grow your audience:

Ideating around your brand values is a safeguard against short-term thinking. By keeping your content ambitions in line with your company’s long term goals, you’re making sure that the content you create has legs that can last a lifetime. Plus, involving your current audience and customers at this stage will help reveal which values actually resonate with them the most.

“Ideating around your brand values is a safeguard against short-term thinking.”

From the Jobs to Be Done framework to simply asking “why” over and over again, understanding and solving your audience’s problems is a tried-and-true marketing tactic that helps you win fans for life.

As a business, you’re probably already very familiar with the problems your customers face because you know what problems your product solves. And while your content should share some of that utility, the greater focus should be placed on the problems your customers face in their daily lives and at work.

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For example, Robinhood wants to “democratize the financial system” for millennials and younger generations through app-based stock trading — a mission that led to the company buying and taking over the MarketSnacks newsletter and podcast (which was rebranded as Robinhood Snacks).

Robinhood’s product solves the problem of making market investing less complicated, but the newsletter and daily podcast give their audience a look at the broader financial landscape in a way that’s more engaging and entertaining.

How to define audience problems:

When it comes to defining audience problems, we recommend using quantitative (demographics and behavior) and qualitative data (comments, feedback, customer interviews, and support queries) about your current customers to form hypotheses about audience pain points at work or at home.

Search online to see if anyone is discussing these pain points to validate your hypotheses, and then create a problem statement using the “people who + but” framework. A “people who + but” statement for Robinhood Snacks’ audience might be:

“Young people who want to make intelligent investments, but don’t always have time to track the financial markets.”

Use the problem statement as the basis for solutions you’ll explore in your content, and as always, be sure to check what you land on against your brand values to ensure it’s still a good fit.

How this helps you grow your audience:

The “people who + but” framework works well for growing your audience because it focuses on identity. A New York Times study on the psychology of sharing found that 68% of people share content online because they want to “give people a better sense of who they are and what they care about.” People who identify a certain way often face the same societal or cultural restraints that cause problems in their daily lives. If you can solve problems for people who identify in a certain way, or as part of a certain social group, your content is more likely to be shared around that group.

Narrowing your audience might sound like contradictory advice for growing it, but doing so actually helps you create better content. Niches allow you to come up with solutions that resonate deeply with the audience you’re targeting, and ultimately, create the kinds of relationships that lead to lasting brand loyalty and fandom.

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MailChimp is a great example of this. They’ve stated on their About page that creating an “empowered and inspired community” is part of their company culture. Their video content brand, MailChimp Presents, is focused on telling stories about “the entrepreneurial spirit.” And each of the series they’ve created so far focuses on a specific niche of entrepreneurs. For instance, the series Wi-Finders is all about digital nomads changing the cultures of the cities they live in.

The “people who + but” statement for Wi-Finders’ audience might be:

“Entrepreneurs and creatives who are considering a more adventurous lifestyle but feel limited by obligations at home or at work.”

The statement above articulates one clear problem these specific people face. What follows next, is a pitch that explains how you’ll address the problem with the execution of your content. Here’s what a pitch for Wi-Finders might look like:

“We’ll document the daily routines of digital nomads to show entrepreneurs the numerous ways they can make a life and live in cities around the world.”

How to create niche content:

Use your problem statement to zero in on an interest group or identity you want to focus on. Then, come up with a pitch for a branded show directed towards that audience. Start by testing out your ideas with smaller content first. Post a tweet thread or a blog post about the problems you’re observing, or create a short (2–5 minute) video exploring your idea.

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Share your content out in the world and gauge interest based on the response you get. You know you’ll have found a good audience niche when it feels like you hit a nerve with a specific online community. With that confidence in your back pocket, start investing in bigger initiatives like a branded show directed towards that audience niche.

How this helps grow your audience:

Specific, concrete details are what make content watchable, and you can only provide these details by narrowing the scope of each project. If your subject matter is too broad, your content will be bland and unhelpful. With a specific niche, you can draw in a quality audience that identifies with and is passionate about your subject. And the more content you create, the more specific, unique audiences you can pull in.

When you’ve found the right ideas and the right people, a kind of magic happens. You can create original content that’s valuable to others, aligns with your brand values, and allows you to flex your curiosity and creativity.

“When you’ve found the right ideas and the right people, a kind of magic happens.”

Without an audience for your content, you may as well be shouting into the void. Values, problems, and identity are all closely connected for getting to know your audience and then creating great content that engages them.

After all, the best content serves its audience in a way that speaks to what they already know about themselves, but also helps them change perspective and think about things in new ways. By grounding your content strategy in the knowledge of your audience, you can take more creative risks with confidence.



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The Case for Creativity in Marketing, Backed by Neuroscience

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These days, almost every business believes that optimization is its main competitive advantage. But the obsession over doing what everyone else is doing actually produces a stale result: all of our content looks the same.

More often than not, creativity is placed on the back burner because producing content that games an algorithm or follows a best practice can help marketing teams achieve their short-term goals, such as a certain number of views or leads per month.

However, almost every algorithm update and best practice are public knowledge. And brands that are laser-focused on optimizing their content for them blend in with their competition and barely innovate their work. In the long run, this plummets engagement and severs their emotional tie with their audience.

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So how do you captivate your audience’s attention and keep them emotionally invested for the long haul? Science says you should provide creative, novel marketing experiences.

Contrary to popular belief, creativity isn’t just a self-indulgent pursuit of happiness. Evidence from neuroscience proves that it’s a brand’s most powerful differentiator — and optimization isn’t. Below, we’ll explore some insightful findings from neuroscience that prove creativity isn’t actually a risk for your brand — it’s your safest bet.

Noticing novelty kept our ancestors alive

With all the watered-down content flooding the internet today, you may think your new video series or podcast will struggle to find an audience. However, saturation is actually a good thing for creative marketers. The human brain is wired to pay attention to novelty, so crafting creative, novel content (even on saturated platforms) can draw an audience’s attention, especially if all of your competitors churn out the same type of content.

Paying instant attention to novelty is an evolutionary trait. In prehistoric times, the odds of becoming lunch for a saber-toothed tiger were sky-high, so anything new or different in our ancestors’ environment, like the rustle of a bush or a snap of a twig, would instantly grab their attention.

Nowadays, our tendency to lock onto novelty isn’t as crucial for survival. But it can help truly creative brands survive and even thrive because they can grab their audience’s attention more effectively than their competitors can.

“Our tendency to lock onto novelty isn’t as crucial for survival, but it can help truly creative brands survive and thrive.”

Novelty triggers the release of dopamine

Novelty isn’t only useful for grabbing your audience’s attention — it’s also highly effective at retaining their attention and dialing up their passion and loyalty for your brand.

According to researchers at Emory University and Baylor College of Medicine, experiencing unexpected pleasure triggers the release of more dopamine, a chemical that plays a huge role in motivation, reinforcement, and reward, than when you experience an expected pleasure. In other words, people enjoy pleasant surprises more than the things they already like.

Additionally, according to researchers at the University of Edinburgh, when these pleasant surprises trigger the release of dopamine, the neurochemical helps us form long-lasting memories of the experience and its surroundings, so we can remember exactly how to experience those feel-good chemicals again.

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This phenomenon dates back to when our prehistoric ancestors would search for sustenance and stumble upon a new, fresh stream of water or patch of berries. Finding as much food and water as possible was necessary for survival, so when our ancestors experienced the pleasant surprise of uncovering a new source of sustenance, their brains would reward their actions with a flood of dopamine, which seared the path they just traveled into their memories. This boosted the odds that they would seek out more sources of food and water and vividly remember exactly how to find them.

For many of us, we have clean water piped into our homes and berries available year-round just miles from our front doors. However, we still crave novel experiences and will always come crawling back for more. For brands, that means prioritizing creativity will help you build a truly engaged, passionate, and loyal audience and, in turn, contribute to your business’ growth. After all, your audience is likely to spend more time with your brand when they have positive experiences with it. And the more time they spend, the more likely they’ll become a customer and brand advocate.

Audiences are habituated to generic content

Optimizing your content by following a popular best practice or churning out the same type of work over and over again are proven audience repellents — our brains stop paying attention to a stimulus after repeated or prolonged exposure to it.

“Optimizing your content by following a popular best practice or churning out the same type of work over and over again are proven audience repellents.”

This evolutionary phenomenon is called habituation, and it scrubs constant stimulation from your awareness, such as the soft touch of your shirt on your skin, to focus your attention on new stimuli that could potentially extend your life, like fresh water, or end your life, like a saber-toothed tiger.

The majority of your target audience is habituated to the listicles and ultimate guides drowning our space. Producing more of them won’t attract any new audience members because they won’t even notice it in the first place. If you truly want to attract and retain their attention, you must provide enough novelty to trigger the release of dopamine — the chemical that rewards humans and incentivizes them to repeat an action.

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Without doing so, you’ll fail to connect with new audiences, your bond with your current audience will crumble, and you won’t be able to convince either of them to stick around.

Creativity makes a lasting impression on your audience

According to Antonio Damasio, chair of neuroscience at the University of Southern California, when consumers are making a purchasing decision, they attach the emotions they felt from previous, related experiences to the products or services they’re evaluating. Soon after, these emotions produce preferences, which drive their decision.

In a nutshell, memories about emotional experiences not only help us reminisce about the past but they also inform our future decisions. As a result, we pursue the things that have rewarded us in the past and avoid the things that haven’t.

That’s why placing pleasant memories in your audience’s mind is so crucial. If you can insert a positive memory of reading a blog post in their brains, you’ll boost the odds that they’ll read another one.

“If you can insert a positive memory of reading a blog post in their brains, you’ll boost the odds that they’ll read another one.”

But how do you get your audience to remember these interactions with your brand? From what neuroscience has taught us, you must grab and retain their attention with creative, novel experiences. And if you can develop a reputation for crafting creative content, your audience will rely on your brand for the jolt of novelty that they crave in their lives, rocketing your brand to the top of their minds and getting them hooked on your content.

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Episode 2: “The Brandwagon Interviews” with Nancy Dussault Smith of Hydrow

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From tactics to taglines, Wistia’s CEO, Chris Savage, chats marketing with the brains behind successful brands on our new video series, Brandwagon. Last week, we kicked things off with our first guest, Mark DiCristina, the Head of Brand at Mailchimp. As we mentioned before, we had so much great content on our fingertips that we decided to release the uncut interviews in a new podcast called, “The Brandwagon Interviews” — and we’re super excited to share the latest episode with you today!

On this episode, Chris sits down with Nancy Dussault Smith, CMO at Hydrow, to learn more about taking a stand on your brand, why it’s so important to budget for experimentation, and how to lean into your niche. Listen to the full episode to hear all about how she’s navigating a new industry in this ever-changing marketing landscape.

Or listen on: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | StitcherWatch the actual Brandwagon episode here!

Nancy started her career at iRobot as Assistant to the Lawyer, but made her way to running Global Marketing in no time. For about 13 years, she ran marketing communications and global marketing at the company. One of her biggest wins with the team was deciding the name of their robot vacuum, Roomba, which was originally going to be Cybersuck (oof!).

Nowadays, Nancy serves as the CMO at Hydrow, where she’s marketing a connected fitness product and a live outdoor reality experience — think along the lines of Peloton, but an in-home rowing machine. Fun fact: Rowing works 86% of your muscles, and a 20-minute workout on a Hydrow is equivalent to 40 minutes cycling or 30 minutes running.

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“If your goal is to just sell volume and be the cheapest thing, you do not have to worry about emotion. You’re selling solely on price. But, if you want to build a brand that people care about, you have to have that emotional component.” On this episode of The Brandwagon Interviews, Nancy highlights the importance of brand-building, knowing your audience, and how to make space to experiment with different types of brand marketing tactics at your business.

Here are some of the lessons learned throughout the episode:

  • Always allocate part of your marketing budget for experimentation
  • Be sure to have a deep understanding of your niche and your market
  • Redefine your brand if you end up “jumping the shark”
  • Show don’t tell — we’re in a world that’s highly visual, people need to see your product
  • Don’t be afraid to take a stand with your brand

Short on time? Check out some of our favorite moments during this interview between Chris and Nancy.

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Chris: What advice would you give to somebody who’s just starting out marketing their business? And, in today’s world — what kind of things should they expect as they’re marketing that will stay the same, and things that will change?

Nancy: The thing that’s going to stay the same is the study of human behavior: people and their ultimate needs and wants. Because people’s needs and wants are consistent. Attention, affection, food, sex — those are the things that drive people to want and need your product. The emotional and rational balance, and where your product fits in that is the same. Understanding your benefit, understanding your core, who’s gonna buy it, why, that’s the basics of marketing. But HOW you communicate all that is completely different.

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Chris: When you have a product that people have never seen before, how do you actually convince them that it’s worth checking out? How do you position a product that has never existed? You obviously did that with Roomba, and you’re doing it again. How do you think about that?

Nancy: It’s really fun because traditional research doesn’t work … You have to tell people what they want and why, and get to the essence of why they should love your product … 

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Chris: How do you get comfortable taking big risks with a brand like Roomba?

Nancy: You have to take risks. Without great risks come no rewards. A lot of times in the early days, it’s gut. We talk a lot about failing fast and that’s no secret. Everybody knows. But if you fail fast, you learn something. You should learn something from everything that you do — what works and what doesn’t. For brand, you have to build core family values over time that are consistent throughout and feel authentic to you. The second you veer off, the public will know and that’s when you jump a shark. That’s when you start to become less authentic to who you are and people won’t understand you anymore.

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39:40

Chris: When you’re taking risks, how do you convince the people around you to feel comfortable with those risks?

Nancy: It’s a great question because it’s a battle every day — anywhere you go. Understanding how different minds work and understanding consumers work, I think you have to use that in your day to day in your office as well. So I look at everybody across the C-Suite sitting at the executive table with me as my consumer and ask myself, “How am I going to convince them that what we’re doing is the right thing?” I used to always say at places where I had bigger budgets, that a certain percentage of the budget was mine to do as I choose …  and nobody could question it. I’ll take this 5 or 10% of the budget, and this is what I play with. This is where I test things that in my gut feel right, but I can’t prove this to you until I try it … and that’s where a lot of wins come in.

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Chris: How do you think about marketing in a world where so many conversations are happening behind closed doors?

Nancy: It feels like the world has come full circle because those conversations used to happen face to face, and marketers had no idea they were happening and had no control over them. Then on social, you had trolls and people yelling things. People felt free to do it. Now, there’s a little more clamping down, and people are going back to having those conversations as if they’re face to face, but electronically. The best and only thing you can do is maintain your brand voice in a consistent way that you feel proud of. There are always going to be nay-sayers. There are always going to be people who are saying bad things. There are always going to be people who are against your brand, but for the most part, I don’t care if they’re a customer I don’t want. I don’t want every customer. Someone saying they hate a product actually identifies for other people this is not for them, or this is for them because Bob hates it.

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5 Businesses Using Wistia Channels to Showcase Their Videos

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Since we launched Wistia Channels back in February, we’ve been blown away by the reaction from our customers and the ways in which they’ve been using this feature to showcase their business’ videos. From binge-worthy episodic series and product announcements to customer testimonials and onboarding videos, the opportunities for Channels are endless.

Here at Wistia, we’ve been using Channels to showcase all sorts of videos on our website, including our new original series, Brandwagon and our first-ever docuseries, One, Ten, One Hundred. But it’s been especially thrilling (and inspiring!) to see the ways our customers are using Channels to showcase their brand, build their audience, and create a can’t-stop-watching experience right on their site. Today, we’re highlighting a few customer Channels that we think are pretty sweet — check them out and get inspired!

Ready to create your own Channel? Wistia Channels are available on our Advanced Plan. Be sure to get in touch if you’re interested in learning more!

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Video series

ForgeRock, an identity and access management company based in San Francisco, California, serves many different industries, including retail. They use a Wistia Channel on their website to showcase a series of videos called “Day in the Life of a Customer.” As they describe in the introduction of their first video, “ … in this series, we take a look into the not-too-distant future at how retail companies will be interacting with their customers, with the help of digital identity.”

This series of videos follows a day in the life of two consumers engaging in various digital retail experiences (ie. shopping for a gift online, upgrading a flight, etc.), and demonstrates how a unified digital identity platform can streamline the buying process.

We love how ForgeRock uses video as a storytelling medium and personalizes it so that viewers can see how it applies to real-life situations. Each episode of the series is short — less than a minute long — so you can watch the whole series in under 5 minutes. Plus, their Channel is embedded within their sleek, modern website, making the whole experience look super cohesive with their brand.

Interview series

Who doesn’t love learning from subject matter experts? 6Sense, an Account Based Orchestration Platform located in San Francisco, Calfornia, utilized this engaging storytelling format in their video series called, “Talking Sense.” In this series, which they describe as “a collection of candid conversations with B2B industry trendsetters,” 6Sense’s Chief Marketing Officer shares in-depth interviews on topics like ABM, modern sales, marketing, and more.

While “Talking Sense” is intrinsically related to 6Sense’s mission, they’ve decided to give the show it’s own brand by creating a separate domain for it and embedding their Wistia Channel there. We love their creative use of thumbnails and the overall color scheme they chose — just look at that beautiful aqua-blue play button!

Onboarding videos

FormLabs, a 3D printing technology manufacturer and developer based in Somerville, Massachusetts, uses a Channel to feature the onboarding videos for their Form 3 3D printer product. These step-by-step videos are clear, engaging, visually appealing, and easily help take their customers through every step of the process, from unboxing to printing.

We love how they’ve used a Wistia Channel to display these videos in sequential order, so a viewer can effortlessly follow along as they’re unpacking their own product. They’ve also added captions to each video, which not only improves accessibility, but also makes it easy for viewers to watch from around the world — a must-have for a global company.

Partnership videos

Segway, a leading provider of personal electronic transportation based in Bedford, New Hampshire, uses a Channel on their website to showcase a number of their videos, including product explainers, company partnerships, and videos on the future of the market and technology.

We love how they’ve titled their Channel to instantly demonstrate the value of their product: “Powered by Segway — Transforming the Last Mile Commute” and the way in which they’ve used Sections within their Channel to separate the different rows by subject.

Product videos

Alternative Apparel, a fashion lifestyle brand with a commitment to sustainability based in Atlanta, Georgia, uses a Channel to dynamically tell the story of their brand and their products. The first video “We Are Alternative” wonderfully captures the essence of the company, and each subsequent video in the Channel delves deeper into what makes the company special, with videos like “Alternative Cares: An Eco Story” and “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Softness.”

With a strong brand vision and a Channel embedded within their website that beautifully matches the look and feel of their brand, Alternative Apparel has created a Channel that’s engaging, informative, and very watchable.

We created Wistia Channels to make displaying a collection of videos on your website super easy — no developers required — while remaining completely on-brand. And we’re so delighted to see how our customers from a number of different industries are all using this feature to show off their awesome video content. Are you using Wistia Channels to showcase your content? We’d love to see them, so be sure to leave a comment and share with us below!

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