As a designer I’ve always been taught to understand people as users. People use the products and services they purchase. They interact with them at various stages throughout the product-person relationship. I don’t consume my smart phone, I use it. I use my coffee percolator, not consume it. I use Starbucks (the service), not consume it.
Consumption, in my mind, deals with a person at one specific point in the product-person relationship – the point of purchase. Trying to understand ‘The Consumer’ is therefore always going to be a challenge if you have such a narrow window to investigate behaviour. Yet big business and marketers still deal with ‘understanding the consumer’ and grouping ‘consumers’ based on their purchasing decisions.
Dealing with consumers in this way is, in my opinion, outdated, traditional and incorrect in today’s society. In reality there are several disruptive shifts that challenge how businesses should be viewing their ‘consumers’;
1) People interact. They add content. Consumers purchase, People add & exchange.
2) People create and adapt the design. Consumers buy products, People create experiences.
3) People Use, Share and Re-use. Consumers are individuals, People build communities
So brand managers, researchers, marketers and strategists:
– Concentrate on people, not consumers.
– Put people before statistics.
– Involve people. Give people control. Let them imagine and create. Let them build associations. Let them add value.