It’s Time We Replaced the Word “Consumer”


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Marketing has changed dramatically.

It’s 2015. The world has changed dramatically, and change is escalating. Technology and Social Media have severely disrupted the status quo, especially with respect to Marketing.

Marketing, an always complicated and ephemeral discipline, has become further fragmented and even more intricate with many more tools and options, vehicles and opportunities to connect.

While, once again I’ll get on my soapbox and restate that every effort must align with the strategy, the fact is that many of these effective new options involve Social Media. And that’s a good thing.

One of the most significant shifts in the paradigm is the transfer of power from Brand Managers and the Marketing team to product users in terms of Brand ownership. The people who use, buy, consume the product (or service) exert a great deal of influence over the Brand, it’s characteristics and communication.

As Marketers, we have always needed to have a profound understanding of the product and the people who consume it. This, in order to determine appropriate strategy, communication vehicles and messages.

But with the product users being more and more implicated and responsible for the Brand, the role of Marketing has shifted from primary owner of the brand identify and reputation to a more of a partnership role shared with the actual humans who comprise the brand franchise.

We need to find a different term for consumer.

Due to this, the marketing community needs to replace the word consumer with something better. A word that does not create a “third-person”, arms-length distance that allows us to objectify the members. Or that leads to define the group of product users with severe or limiting constraints.  We need a term that doesn’t imply a large, homogenous, characterless group with more in common than not.

Why do we need a different word for consumer?

I believe if we had a term that acknowledged the new Brand partnership and more adequately reflected the new brand relationship between the corporate owners and those that take the product home, it would help us, as marketers, do a better job:

  • To establish and foster better relationships.
  • To create meaningful dialogue.
  • To build mutual trust and respect.
  • To do what’s right for the brand and the people it’s conceived for.

And what is the new word for consumers?

I have a few suggestions, but I don’t have a definitive answer. This is something that we need to talk about, discuss and deeply consider. It’s too important to leave to one person, group or organization.  We need the weight of the masses behind it.

To own it!

The new word for consumer needs to better reflect the multiple characterises of the group it will designate:

It needs to have aspects of “fan”.

It needs to connote “audience”, but in a specific and targeted manner.

It should acknowledge the humanity and yes, even the personality of the group.

The word should be accepted by the people in the group (come on, have you ever identified yourself as a “consumer”?)

It must be both comprehensive and inclusive to accommodate the diverse mosaic of the group.

So far, the Thesaurus proposes one synonym that I prefer; it is “enjoyer”.

What do you say? Do you agree we need a new term for consumer? What would that term be?