Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Of consumers and unicorns

B2C marketers talk about consumers all the time. Consumer insights. Consumer needs. Consumer benefits. Consumer centricity. The entire marketing enterprise is supposedly built around this thing called "the consumer."

There's just a small problem. Consumers don't exist. There's no such thing. "The consumer" is a chimera, a reification.

There is consumption behavior. People do engage in the behavior of buying and then consuming various goods and services. But identifying or defining people as "consumers" is entirely inappropriate and it masks the complexity of human nature - and, even, human behavior.

The "thing" that is buying and consuming is not a buying / consumption machine. (Though we have done our best to confuse this point.) The "thing" is a human being. A person. At one moment it buys or consumes. At another it loves or grieves. At another it reaches up to the heights to exalt itself and others. And at another it stoops down to commingle with the dirt. Even more, it does all of this at once.

When we attempt to succeed in business by somehow influencing a "consumer," all we are doing is closing our minds to the richness of the person we seek to influence. Our behaviors are, thus, necessarily shallow and incomplete. If we were, instead, to insist on always imagining a complete human being in front of us, I suspect we would realize that our marketing efforts are not only woefully inadequate, but often counterproductive.

So let's stop using the word "consumer." Or, at least, let's use it as we use the word "unicorn." Instead, let's think about people. Talk about people. And seek to make people's lives better. In so doing, we can create success for our businesses.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

My new FB friend policy

I'm interested in connecting with people that are really my friends. People I would actually enjoy having a beer with and who would enjoy having one with me (if they liked beer). I like meeting new people on FB when I can enrich myself (and hopefully them) by sharing ideas and interests. I have met some people on FB, like the great Craig DeLarge, that I consider friends because of the connection we've made online. For this reason I value FB a lot.

However, FB has a dark and unseemly side. One that devalues the very concept of friendship. One that devalues ideas by turning everything into often crude soundbites. (I do enjoy crude soundbites, but I don't want to live in a world where they are the sole means of communication.) I am not interested in helping you with your narcissistic quest to have as many FB "friends" as possible. I am not interested in helping you convince yourself that you're important because lots of people seem to care about what you have to say. I might be interested in helping you with your business networking, but not on FB. Find me on LinkedIn and we'll see.

So, effective one week from now, I am cleaning up my friend list. I would rather have one good FB friend than 1000 fake ones. I will be maintaining people on my friend list if they are true friends in the offline world, if they add to the value of my life by sharing ideas with me, if they make me think, if they seem to care about me somehow and make me care about them, and so on in this spirit.

Anyone who does not evidence the qualities of friendship with me or the promise of becoming one in the future, is not going to remain on my FB list. Hopefully no hard feelings folks. But I find it rather offensive to use the sacred word "friend" to describe someone who isn't.