Are You Serving An Audience, Or Chasing One?
I did something last night that I haven’t done in years. I sat down and watched a documentary on History. It was a 2018 release that I had never heard about because I had long abandoned the History Channel. You see, in the late ‘90s, as I was getting started in the radio business, I worked as schedule that felt like 8 days a week, but it was only 6. I was commuting 160 miles a day, round trip for my weekday job at WOMP-FM in Wheeling, WV and doing double-duty on the weekends at WOMP, while tackling overnights in Pittsburgh at WBZZ-FM. So, Sunday afternoons were my weekend; and the History Channel was my hangout.
Their Sunday night line up was a mix of history-centric shows like “Tales of The Gun”, “World War II In Color”, “Mail Call”, “History’s Mysteries”. I consumed it all, especially programming about the first half of the 20th Century. If there wasn’t anything on other networks for me, there was definitely something for me on the History Channel. But by the early 2010’s, that line-up was practically gone, replaced with shows like “Ice Road Truckers”, “Axe Men”, “Swamp People” and the like. Less about history, and more about competition-reality. They started to chase an audience that liked “Survivor”, “Hell’s Kitchen”, “American Chopper”.
I hung on a for a few years. Yeah, I watched those first few seasons of “Ice Road Truckers” and “Axe Men”, but my craving for history was no longer being satisfied on DirecTV Channel 269. Eventually it was bypassed in my future scrolling for something to enjoy on TV.
The same thing has happened to my favorite car, the Chevrolet Camaro. GM discontinued the car in 2002 due to a combination of factors with the expense of upgrading the platform to meet new Federal crash standards playing a large role, but there was still a hunger among the small Camaro faithful both in the marketplace and within GM. In 2006, GM introduced a Camaro Concept car that started a buzz among its fans who made it clear it was time for the Camaro to return to the market.
Sales were great for the first few model years. GM enlisted a group of enthusiasts called “The Disciples” to be their in-house focus group on the design of the car, which reflected the first generation of Camaro from the late 1960s. But as time went on, GM ignored fans input about the cost, equipment content and usability of the car. In 2016, Chevrolet redesigned the car with an eye on a new audience. Instead of competing with Ford’s Mustang and Dodge’s Challenger as had been the norm, GM sought buyers that may have preferred European Sport Coupes from BMW or Audi. The top-of-the-line performance variants, which most enthusiasts wanted, were now nearing Corvette-level pricing, making a once affordable car, out of reach of their target buyer. Combine that with a lack of marketing, and the Camaro is now rumored for extinction again between 2023 and 2026.
Instead of giving customers what they had come to expect: programming with deep historical content or a V8 performance car with practical usability and affordability, they deviated in search of new targets and alienated their faithful following.
So that’s the question that I put forth to you. Is your brand delivering a consistent product that meets your current audience’s expectations; or, are you chasing an audience at the expense of the one you currently have? Are you walking the fine line between evolution and alienation? It’s something to consider. Because, once those fans, followers or P1s leave you, they rarely return with the same fervor for your brand that they once had.