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The people formerly known as the audience

What can Prince (or the artist formerly known as…) teach us about customers?

Came across this wonderful phrase that liberates the mind, as the most powerful pieces of language do, from the concrete boots of normal thinking and lets it leap free with a single bound…

“The people formerly known as the audience” – Bruce Lewin

Some pieces of language just define what is coming, what is emerging, half-formed from beneath us (the future isn’t ahead, it’s here already and emerging from the edges of the present: we’re just too busy looking at the middle instead of the edge), and tease it into shape. Bruce’s phrase does just that.

It emerges out of a discussion of the book The Long Tail, which is useful for helping us redefine what profitable customers are or will be.

It’s on an old Harvard discussion board from last year run by the ever-readable Jim Heskett. I’ll dig out the links and add them here in a bit.

If you know Lewin’s phrase already and I’m behindhand here, I usually am, but I get there in the end, so consider this a reminder of something important rather than a new insight.

If you haven’t heard it before and think “Why is this significant? What are you on about?” then I wish I could explain better in a short post just why this is so important.

Participation. Co-creation. Web 2.0. Life 2.0. 15 minutes of fame. Fragmenting markets. Post-mass consumption. Post-supplier/consumer relationships. A post-consumer age (-ish). Economics of abundance vs economics of scarcity…It’s all about all of that and more.

The audience is on the stage. The users run the system. You have to re-define customers accordingly.

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