A term most often used in economics and marketing, Wikipedia defines it as ” a person or group of people, such as a household, who are the final users of products or services…The consumer is the one who pays to consume the goods and services produced. As such, consumers play a vital role in the economic system of a nation.”
Are humans valuable merely for their ability to purchase and use things?
I’ve always resented my value in any terms, let alone economic, being reduced to my ability to purchase or use things.
But, as I grew up in a time when a good economy was equated with the health and well-being of the population, I learned to accept the term. Consumer spending was a good thing, it kept everyone happily engaged (whether in employment or shopping) and ensured that our nation would continue to be strong and prosperous.
Over time, however, my eyes were opened about the true cost of rampant consumerism and its breathless drive to feed the ravenous and ever-growing god – “The Economy.”
Though there are many still who cannot imagine our lives being driven by anything else, few fail to recognize the damage consumerism inflicts on the environment, our health, and on the quality of our lives in general.
War, poverty, the extinction of multiple species, disease, hunger, and so much other unnamed suffering so very often seems to have its roots in this heartless system that values economic growth above everything else. And, incredibly, our leaders continue to offer up even more consumerism as the main answer to all of these problems.
What is someone who calls herself a marketer doing bashing consumerism?
So what is someone who calls herself a marketer doing bashing consumerism?
Well, first of all, I consider myself a content marketer. If it weren’t for content marketing, I probably wouldn’t be in marketing at all.
That’s because, while its main goal is to help businesses and organizations sell their products, services, events, and ideas, content marketing accomplishes this by giving useful information away for free, building beneficial relationships with audiences, and helping to build and strengthen online communities.
All of these things build social capital and help individuals, which, in turn, helps humanity in general. And all of this makes me feel good about my job.
But content marketing does even more than that. It humanizes marketing by encouraging and expecting us to behave as people rather than brands online – and not just any people, but better people. For when we choose to continue the intrusive, insensitive, and manipulative marketing tactics of the 20th century, our audiences seek to shut down our access to them. Very often, they succeed.
It’s time to retire the term “consumer” as applied to our audiences, clients, and customers, once and for all.
That’s why I feel it’s time to retire the term “consumer” as applied to our audiences, clients, and customers, once and for all.
Think about it. These people enable us to build our dreams, employ others, pay our bills, put food on the table. Don’t they deserve a moniker that reflects at least a little of our appreciation for this?
And, while they do purchase and use the things we are selling, in this day and age, when being human is SO important to our success as content marketers, is it really wise to view them in this one-dimensional manner?
How much more effective might our marketing become if we committed to viewing our audience as friends with multifaceted personalities and a bounty of different likes, dislikes, and lifestyles? As people who not only purchase and use things, but make things, share things, and weave the fabric of our communities, both on and offline?
As a marketer, I know this kind of talk may be considered somewhat heretical. But it’s something I’ve been dying to say for a while, and I believe the time has never been more right to address just who the customers and marketers of the future will be, what roles they will play, and how they will relate to each other.
For several years now, it has been very clear that the trend in marketing is toward humanization. I plan to support that trend by referring to my audience as friends or fellow community members, never as “consumers.”
And though I don’t see content marketing as a purely altruistic endeavor, I do believe it can benefit society in ways that surpass its goal of profit generation, and that is something I’d like to promote.
How about you? What do you think about the term “consumer?” Does the word “marketing” still fit? What changes are you seeing in marketing? How are things staying the same? What role do you think technology and the rise of the sharing economy have to play in all of this?