Beyond the Consumer: the Co-Creator and Experience-Seeker

The term “consumer” has been dead for a while, but we still continue to use it by default. Time for a refresh. What’s become obvious is that we, the people who used to be called “consumers” (which conjures images of cows chewing grass or swarms of locusts devouring crops) are now actively creating. Creating content, creating opinions, publishing, leading, influencing, and, whether warranted or not, providing direct feedback on brands, products and corporate behaviour. I think we should call ourselves “Co-Creators” to honour that new, elevated role.

With one of our clients, Hollywood Suite, we invited the improv community in Toronto to submit their home-made videos about their favourite iconic movie moments and enter a contest where the public voted on the best video. We were flooded with submissions, and some ingenious little videos, from a legion of movie lovers who also had some improvisational talent. They literally are helping us create this brand, as the brand that connects Canadian movie lovers to the greatest Hollywood movies. The people’s movie brand, in other words. Their passion and original content, helped to provide substance to our brand idea.

As well, what’s clear is that today, almost everything is a commodity, except for this one thing: Having a unique and desirable experience. Someone in a recent seminar I attended said, “If you sell a cup of coffee, you can charge a buck. If you’re selling an indulgence, you can charge two or three. If you’re selling an experience, you can charge five.” Right now, as we speak, Peet’s Coffee, a chain from California that predates Starbucks and the rest (Peet was the godfather of gourmet coffee who taught the young guns like Starbucks in the 70s how to make gourmet espresso-based coffee drinnks), is expanding across the States, like an epidemic, eating Starbucks in its path. What they sell is a boutique “artisan” experience, with warm natural woods and exceptionally high quality coffees, made and served with a connoisseur’s care. And they charge more than Starbucks. Quite something.

So let’s stop using the C word, and start acknowledging that our publics like to create and to experience. Strategize against that, and we’ve started to create real value.