There is a famous saying that history has a way of repeating itself – and our job as marketers is not exempt from this.

Audiences today are constantly evolving with the advent of new technology, leaving marketers with the task of identifying more creative ways to break through the noise. Still, the different ways in which people are fulfilled by the information they consume has never – and will never change. Somewhere along the way, marketers stopped thinking about this and started focusing more on devices, age groups and calls to action. Although all are an integral part of our strategies and targeting executions, our audience definitions don’t – and shouldn’t – begin and end there. We have to return to our foundation as marketers and strategists and think about the rhetorical appeals we make to our audiences.

Logos, Ethos, Pathos

I’m not talking just about the emotional or logical appeals of our audiences. I’m talking about truly considering the content needs of today’s consumer.

Traditionally, we’ve assigned Boomers and Millennials to vastly different content consumption groups, which has historically worked – at least in the short term. But these user groups have continued to grow, both upward and outward, and the line between segments is increasingly blurring, challenging a more (recently) default approach to our strategies.

A human-centric approach to marketing means recognizing that the identity of an audience group is less about its age or the device and channel it uses, and more about the type of participant they are when it comes to interacting with digital ecosystems. There are passive groups, more interactive groups, and a slew of in-between-ers. The kicker – their mindset changes from day-to-day and the type of content they’re looking for on Tuesday may be different than what they’re looking for on Saturday.

Rhetorical Teaching

The reality is that humans are increasingly multi-dimensional and exhibit different needs at various times. Marketers must rise to the occasion and create content that first satisfies this. Instead of boxing our audiences into age groups and channels, focusing on how customers consume content on a deeper level will give marketing the longevity it needs in order to outlast evolving audiences and technologies. We must rethink today’s audience groups by looking more closely at their expectations for content, their mindsets and how they connect to each other. This is a concept that entered the digital marketing discussion around 2014 - drawing on rhetorical teachings - but seemed to be before audiences or marketers were ready for it.

There are four major user groups to consider when developing your marketing strategies:

Community Builder
Communities and networks to belong and co-create
This consumer is focused on belonging to a community and loves the idea of connecting with others to co-create a successful project or content that supports a greater good.

Contributor
Shared content that promotes interaction and experience
The contributor loves engaging with online content of all varieties.

Creator
Tools, products and services for creative expression and exposure
The creator is one of the hardest groups to satisfy because they crave both the ability to create and the ability to then gain exposure for their masterpiece.

Observer
Quality content that entertains and enriches
This customer is truly a consumer of content to their core. Their primary need for content is entertainment and enrichment.

Look at the stark differences between the Observer and the Creator, for example. Both may be Millennials and both on similar channels like Instagram and Snapchat, but they’re looking for different features and different content types to keep them engaged. The Observer is looking for entertainment value and quality content that enriches them without having to interact, whereas the Creator is looking for creative outlets to express themselves with basic tools. Just as these two groups have different needs out of social channels, they too have different needs out of everything from your brand’s website to your content or voice skills – and, most importantly, play different roles in the movement of your content.

To sum up, we’ve become so focused on exciting emerging technologies that we run the risk of forgetting the fundamental mindset of the audiences we are speaking to. Redefining these four major audience groups (mentioned above) for clients simply enables deeper connections with their core consumers. If we can take a step back and simplify before we complicate, our strategies will go further faster.