The Age of the Audience.

I had a flashback while I was standing in line at the Madrid McDonalds this weekend (I know, I know, I should have been eating Tapas instead of McNuggets de Pollo, but see, I have this thing where I like to compare the different tastes of McDonalds in countries around el mundo).

I flashbacked to when I was 10, before McNuggets de Anything even existed and I used to order the hamburger.  Ok, that’s not true.  I used to order a plain hamburger.  No pickles, or onion or anything.  See, I have this thing where I don’t like lots of “mayo, salt, ketchup or goop” and I want my food simple and clean, like most slightly OCDers.

Ordering a plain hamburger back then was tough.  I remember the scary look the 16 year old pimply-faced AC/DC fan at the cash register used to give me.  And then he had to scream “special order” to the 16 year old pimply-faced Cheap Trick fan cooking up those burgers.  It was like I was Oliver and had asked for s’ more.

The cash register dude had to give me a special receipt.  And then I had to wait.  And my parents had to wait.  Or if I was with friends and their parents, then we all had to wait.  And I felt like a McNugget de A-hole.

When I finally did get my burger?  5 times out of 10, they got it wrong (it was always the pickles).

McDonalds wasn’t the only company force feeding you whatever they were cookin’ up.  Adding a slice of cheese to a sandwich at a Wendy’s or asking your chef at your local Italian restaurant to switch up the pasta in a dish, or getting your seat locations from Telecharge was impossible (It wasn’t until the early 90s when Telecharge started giving your locations over the phone when you bought your tickets.  Can you imagine shelling out all that cash and not knowing where you were sitting until your tickets arrived in the mail.  Can you imagine tickets actually arriving in the mail?).

Things are different now.  And not only at your local fast food restaurant.  Go anywhere and people will be customizing what they want to their specific needs.  Whether that’s a bed with a sleep number, coffee with soy milk, laundry in special soap, your personalized iGoogle web page, etc.

Burger King even resurrected their most successful ad campaign of all time in 2004.   Which one? Why, “Have It Your Way,” of course.

The increase in competition over the last 20 years has forced companies to pay more attention to the customer.  No one makes me feel like a ten year old when I want something my way anymore.  And I don’t have to wait.  And they (rarely) get it wrong:  whether that’s a burger, a hotel room, or a computer with just the right amount of memory and the right graphics card.

We live in the age of the consumer.  They have more power than they did.  So, to succeed, we have to give them more choice than they even realize they want (no one does this better than Nordstrom’s).

We live in the Age of the Audience.

How are you making sure your audience doesn’t feel like I did?

Because see, we all have these things . . . don’t you?

  • Jane says:

    If I buy theatre tickets online or over the phone here in Aus they always come in the mail. I love getting them, it is always so exciting.

  • Richard says:

    Hmmm…let’s see. Does this mean that if I’m fearful that Sutton Foster’s plant your feet and pushing style doesn’t suit me, I can get my performance with, say, Kelli O’Hara instead?
    No pickles, please.

  • Aaron says:

    The ability to customize orders came as a direct result in competitive retail markets. For example if you look at the appliance market (before Electrolux came out with their stove that heats water in 90 seconds) it was all the same white boxy production line equipment. When they realized that foreign markets were able to deliver the same product at a fraction of the cost it saved the customers money. The idea of customer customization trickled down to the service industry more as an advertising plug than actual customer satisfaction but luckily we have been able to reap the benefits as it (finally) hit theater. What’s next- cast the show you see the night you see it? Act 1- Musical Idol Act 2- the final show!

  • Vanessa says:

    When I was abroad my friends all thought I was nuts because I tried McDonald’s in every city in Europe that I visited. It’s good to know what sells elsewhere, whether it’s burgers or musical theatre…

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