Give Me Wal-Mart or Give Me Death? Death: Life as a Prosumer and a Prosumer Marketer.

A friend recently linked an article, Identifying, Knowing and Retaining Your Customers, which talks about marketing towards the prosumer, not the consumer. The person who cares about what s/he’s buying, how its impacted the Earth, where it comes from, the company’s ethics, etc. I’d describe myself as a prosumer and in my daily job, I marketed online to the prosumer, instead of consumer.

Prosumer marketing is interesting as it’s almost the opposite of consumer. It’s specialization vs Wal-Martization.

The consumer wants a pack of 24 women’s athletic socks for $15 at Wal-Mart. S/he cares about prices and quantity. There also might be some attachment to jingles, logos, and brilliantly worked tag lines to cue up the buying instinct. I see the consumer as two different types of people:

The self-server consumer who straight up doesn’t care as long as s/he is getting the best deal. This is the mindless consumer who sometimes buys just to have stuff and has the income or credit lines to do it. The ones who buy disposable diapers and is never going to think twice; it’s convenient, cheap, easy, and always available.

The low-income consumer who’s more concerned about keeping food on the table and a roof over his/her family’s head than fair trade, being green, or shopping locally. This is not just the person buying from Wal-Mart, but likely the one who works for Wal -Mart too. At the current federal minimum wage, the low-income consumer must work 2.5 hours to buy that pack of women’s athletic socks.

On the other hand, the prosumer is the one who looks into the quality of the product, how it’s going to be use, where it’s made, and/or who made it being concerned about fair trade, being green, being organic, and/or shopping local. Different prosumers have different ideals and may mix and match. Lifestyle marketing works wonders on this crowd. A prosumer is usually willing to pay a higher price tag in order to achieve some quality of product.

For instance, when I went to buy an mp3 player, instead of buying a 2 MB generic one for $60, I bought the 160 GB video iPod for around $360 as I knew I would be using it a lot, needed a lot of space, possibly to watch video if flying somewhere, and know Apple not only pioneered the technology, but has good customer support. I’m a web designer, a geek, of course, my tech is going to match my lifestyle.

As a prosumer, I’m a big fan of specialization in the marketing and how e-commerce has greatly helped it out. If I want to know anything about any company, I get online. I look at the company’s web site, product information, and what other people are saying about that company. It’s way more exciting and hopeful than the Wal-Martization of everything.

I might work for a company, which is owned by another one that utilizes Wal-Martization to the extreme, but I can comfort myself with knowing that my job is to market to the person who perhaps cares about something besides bulk pricing and convenience. It’s more creative and stimulating than sticking giant yellow stars with new markdown prices on every graphic I make. (Been here, done that.)

Personally, I want to invest in a product that lasts. I want a product that’s being sold locally or manufactured by a smaller company. I want something that’s green and maybe recycled. I don’t want to feel dirty for what I prosume . I want something that speaks to me. I have no interest in 24 pairs of athletic socks; I would never use them or want them around. They’d end up in my Goodwill donation bag.

I haven’t bought something from a Wal-Mart in something like 7 years, even if my mother, who’s a bit of mix of the self-server and low-income consumer currently, likes to drag me into one when I visit her. I hope as globalization expands and more people have access to free trade and the prosumer voices will be loud enough to equality the marketplace.

0 Replies to “Give Me Wal-Mart or Give Me Death? Death: Life as a Prosumer and a Prosumer Marketer.”

  1. What role does value play to the consumer? I agree that some consumer are focused on a type of gluttony (how much can I get for the least price), but I feel there is another class of consumer. Lets call them coupon cutting consumers. These people are primarily concerned with making a buck go as far as possible because if the don’t they go with out. Sure they’d love to buy higher quality products that would actually save money in the long run but they just don’t have the capitol to make such purchases.

    How can a prosumer marketer incorporate that type of consumer, while staying true to his/her maison d’etre?

  2. I did state that the coupon cutters or Wal-Mart workers are consumers out of necessity first. When having more means, some of them will stay consumers and some will be prosumers. For example, even if he had more money, my youngest brother would still be a consumer. He would go out and buy the latest video gaming system — not because of features or that it’s the best — but because he has every other video gaming system and all his friends do too instead of say investing in going to college.

    Prosumer marketers can always offer coupons or sales to attract necessity consumers on their way to prosumer land. I myself often fall into the gray area of not having enough capital in order to pull off full prosumer and it’s harder work to find the coupons/sales. But I still found a Marc Jacobs silk skirt on the extra extra clearance rack marked down from $200+ to $30. Offering “every day low-prices” may not be what the prosumer marketer is about and would dilute the message/product, but that doesn’t mean that s/he isn’t going to end up with left over merchandise that’s from last season/been discontinued or offer a sale once in a while. I think companies like Nordstroms have pulled this off spectacularly by having The Rack to off-load old product and only have two annual sales. It still makes Nordstroms seem like an exclusive prosumer shop focused on branding and still maintaining their bread-and-butter customers while gathering a bit from those who desire to be prosumers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.