We all know the old saying “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Wikipedia defines it as a “philosophical thought experiment that raises questions regarding observation and knowledge of reality.” Others classify it as a question of whether existence exists independently of consciousness. I view it as proof that a brand’s most valuable asset may just be its audience. Because, if we generate content and nobody is around to consume it, is it really marketing?

Jeffrey Rohrs is the VP of Marketing Insights for ExactTarget and the author of the very interesting “AUDIENCE: Marketing in the Age of Subscribers, Fans & Followers,” in which he addresses a very perplexing problem. If we agree that every company needs audiences to survive, that they are where we find new customers and develop more profitable relationships, then why is there such little time and energy spent acquiring, developing, and curating the audience?

For a long time, marketers really only had the option of renting audiences. We did that by buying advertising – tv, radio, print. In doing so, we were paying money to put our message in front of someone else’s audience. We would achieve impressions, but the asset (the audience) remained the property of the media owner.

In this new age, though, we all have the ability to develop our own proprietary audiences – audiences that are ours and ours alone; audiences that WANT to hear from us; audiences that are engaged, active, and open for the types of content we can provide.

In the old world, there were viewers, listeners, and readers. Now we can have our own subscribers, fans, and followers. As Jeff describes, these owned audiences hold significant advantages over rented audiences in that they provide ‘renewable energy sources’ that can provide long-term competitive advantage.

But what are you doing to to further your own brand’s ‘Proprietary Audience Development?’ Are you using your paid, owned, and earned media to not only sell in the short-term but also to increase the size, engagement, and value of your proprietary audience? Do specific people in your organization have specific responsibility for your audience?

If you want to learn more (and we all should/can), I encourage you to consider joining us in September at the Brand ManageCamp marketing conference. Jeffrey Rohrs will be speaking on ‘AUDIENCE,’ and there are 12 other fantastic speakers covering a wide range of brand marketing topics you won’t want to miss.