This column was first featured on Jack Myers’ MedizBizBloggers site.

I never liked to be called a consumer. It evokes the image of an unshaved man in a wife beater shirt, sitting in front of the light blue glare of a TV screen, stuffing his face with chips and expressing his approval/disapproval with grunts.

Words matter

The word “consumer” devalues people. It makes them sound like mindless cattle, alive to consume and get out of the way. Just to consume more. It reinforces a relationship between companies and people that doesn’t exist anymore. People don’t serve companies anymore, companies have to serve people. People have moved up the food chain and are now equal stakeholders. Calling them consumers makes us fall back into the old thinking patterns and maltreat people with advertising brainwash.

People are more than consumers

I often use the sentence “People have transformed from consumers to producers”. It’s true. And an oversimplification at the same time. We’re complex social primates. We’re employees, family people, friends, loners, artists, followers, leaders, dreamers, realists – add your descriptions here. We are a complicated bunch. And good advertisers try to engage people in a conversation, try to co-create and collaborate. Consumers don’t do that. Consumers just consume.

Time to ditch “consumer”

I call them people. You can call them audience. Whatever. Trying to find like-minded people will lead to stereotypes and simple segmentations. It helps when buying media or try to earn media. But the last consumer died a while ago. He just lives on in your mind. Time to erase that term from your mental hard drive.

Next stop: the term “user”.