I, Consumer

by Ben Perreira

I was talking to one of my friends this week about something I was working on and I mentioned that I don’t see myself as a consumer. She seemed surprised. How could I not be a consumer? 

Of course, I am a consumer from an objective perspective because I buy things. I am a rather heavy consumer of sports equipment, Trader Joe’s groceries, digital technology products and, at times, fine whiskey. But I don’t see myself as a “consumer.” In my mind these are things I just happen to buy along my journey. I am a person who consumes out of necessity, I tell myself.

Some marketers talk about using social media to create a “relationship” with fans. In reality, people treat brands like the guy they see at a bar, share a few beers with then don’t see for a month. That guy serves his purpose perfectly at that time. People don’t want to be married to brands. They don’t want to check in hourly.

The smartest brands realize that many brands in many industries are competing for the attention of people who watch TV, drive past billboards, use the internet and use smartphones. Those people are buying many things throughout a given day, week, month and year. They are certainly not wondering if Coca-Cola is thinking about them while they’re window-shopping Volvos. 

People who identify with a brand’s perspective will likely ultimately feel a need for that brand’s product (and the accompanying emotional boost the brand offers beyond the benefits of the actual product), and they will buy it. 

In that moment, that person will consume. In the next moment he is heading to a meeting or picking up his kids from school. Relieved, he becomes a person again.  

A focus on how we buy may make more sense than simply profiling the demographic and psychographic makeup of who we are as “consumers.” We are people who have simple desires. Brands should figure out how they can fulfill those desires, generate more occasions to fulfill new desires whenever possible, and stay in the background the rest of the time. No one likes a clinger.