Re-thinking "the consumer"



Over the years I had come to feel faintly queasy about portraying people as "consumers."

I worried that it squeezed all empathy and understanding out of our perspective, reducing people to the moment of purchase or consumption.

To mere mouths and wallets.

Then I read this exchange:

Magazine: Who are your heroes in real life?"

Artist: "The consumer"

The choice of language felt deliberate - no predictable mention of "the audience."

It's made me change my mind.

And made me think that at least the language of "the consumer" offers a more honest perspective than that of "the audience."

For it reminds us that is people who ultimately determine the terms of engagement - it they who determine what is successful, and is not.

It reminds us that by and large, people are not waiting or looking for what we put out - as Gossage reminded us all those years ago, "When advertising talks about the audience, it doesn’t mean its audience, it means somebody else’s, gathered there to watch or read something else.

It reminds us that people will have a choice - that if not satisfied, they will move on.

That we are not the only ones in their lives.

That what we make occupies but a tiny portion of people's attention, enthusiasm, time, and lives.

That as seasoned exercisers of choice and discretion, people are smarter than we often given them credit for.

It reminds us that they consume US .

That they are not OUR audience.

And that if we truly wish to have them think of us, value us, and keeping coming back to us, we're better off giving them something wonderful, rather than something merely adequate.

Then again, a fresh, divergent, more brave, honest and enlightening perspective is what David Bowie always offered us.


Source: Vanity Fair