|Ira Matathia, the
Prosumers are human media
A powerful word of mouth, the brand evangelists
«Prosumers are important because
they both reflect and shape markets. Being highly communicative,
they pick up what others are thinking and reflect it
through the lens of their own experiences. And, being
interested in innovation, they gather information widely,
they try out new things, and they tell others about
those experiences. They are 'conversational currency'».
Interview by Catarina
Nunes, Portuguese marketing specialist and journalist,
and Jorge Nascimento Rodrigues, editor of Gurusonline.tv,
The Prosumer concept, born in Alvin Toffler's "Third
Wave" bible of the future, just got a real image
based on recent market research findings from Euro RSCG's
"Prosumer Pulse 2004: A Global Study-Anticipating
Consumer Demand", a survey in US and UK. Directed
by Ira Matathia, the study is based on an online survey
of 1,982 adults in US and 2,127 adults in UK. The survey
was conducted on behalf of Euro RSCG Worldwide by Market
Probe International in February 2004 in the States and
the United Kingdom. Over the course of 2004, the study
was extended to China (2,016 interviews), France (2,000),
Germany (3,158) and India (2,016).
The message is simple: prosumers are of particular
value to marketers looking to anticipate future trends.
They are an "early warning system" about the
consumer next and a true "human media", a
"conversational currency", buzzwords you -
marketer - must take note. And you will be surprised
with the role model of this new segment: the "Manson-Bee"
- but to know who is this guy, you have to read the
A best-selling author and former advertising agency
president, Ira Matathia joined Euro RSCG Worldwide in
2001 as Global Director of Business Development. He
joined the management team of the newly formed Integrated
Business Unit, Euro RSCG Worldwide-New York at its inception
in May 2002, as Director of Strategy. He is currently
Managing Director. Ira's reputation as a marketer stems
from a distinguished career of more than 25 years in
agency account management. Previously, Ira was President
of Chiat/Day Toronto and Chiat/Day New York. In 1994
Ira began a partnership with Marian Salzman, operating
the Department of the Future at Chiat/Day. In 1997 they
and their group moved to Young & Rubicam, where
they operated under the names of Brand Futures Group
and The Intelligence Factory. Their book, Next: Trends
for the Near Future, has been published in 14 different
versions and nine languages. Their most recent book
Buzz, was published by Wiley/Adweek in April, 2003.
The Future of Men, is their next project, under global
contract to St. Martin's Press, scheduled for publication
in early 2005.
From which words is the Prosumer concept derived?
Alvin Toffler introduced the "Prosumer" in
his book, The Third Wave. In his construct, the term
was used to define the "coming together" of
producers and consumers of goods and services, in a
kind of partnership to determine what should be made
for consumption. In our view, Prosumers define a segment
of the population who are proactive, empowered and have
a "dynamic" relationship with brands
If the prosumer is an evolution of the early adopter,
the early adopter just vanished? Why?
Prosumers are by definition early adopters but they
are also much, much more: They are proactive in seeking
out information and opinions; active in sharing their
views and experiences with others; ahead-of-the-curve
in their attitudes and behaviors. Early adopters tend
to be more "one dimensional", i.e., they tend
to be defined by the particular behavior of adopting
A globalization at the personal level
Which are the similarities and differences between
Like early adopters, Prosumers are defined by their
behavior but they are also defined by their attitudes
to the category, brands, companies, information, and
the media. Within Prosumers, we see three categories:
- The leading edge: a small % of the population (2%),
who are so "out there", they are beyond prediction,
and unlikely to impact the mainstream;
- Early adopters (a.k.a. Alphas): about 8%, importantly
defined by "inner directed-ness". They value,
and tend to hold close 'what they know'. Trend-setters;
- Social networkers (a.k.a. "Bees"): Some
20% of the population. Linked to the Alpha, but most
importantly, people who are at the hub of their social
networks; "outer directed" and the "trend-spreaders
to the mainstream".
Which are the most important aspects in the prosumers?
Prosumers are the approximately 20-30 percent of people
at the vanguard of consumerism. They are powered by
three unstoppable forces: the Internet (which empowers
them with information, forums, and communication), media
fragmentation (which makes their word of mouth far more
powerful), and globalization at the personal level (which
allows their force to be felt all over the world). Compared
with the average consumer, prosumers are more marketing
savvy and demanding. They actively seek out information
and opinions, share their views and experiences with
others, and are keenly aware of their worth to retailers
and brand partners.
Is there any public celebrity that has this profile?
It's important to distinguish between the "Alpha"
and the "Bee", as we do in this example, from
the world of pop music, excerpted from our book, Buzz:
Consider the case of Trent Reznor (also goes by TR,
T.Rez ou El Rezzo), a founder of the groundbreaking
band, Nine Inch Nails (NIN), and one Brian Warner, born
in Canton, Ohio, an unremarkable Catholic school boy,
who as an adolescent had a serious case of acne, and
few friends. You may know Brian, however, from his nom
de guerre, Marilyn Manson. A true Alpha, Reznor is recognized
as a music visionary. Reznor was amused and impressed
by journalist-turned-rock star Manson and signed the
band to his label, Nothing/Interscope Records, in 1993.
Reznor's endorsement gave the shock-rocking Manson credibility
and allowed him fast access to the public stage. Once
there, Manson took full advantage of the spotlight and
has used a series of controversies to ensure he stays
in it. Make no mistake: This Bee is a master at using
buzz to build interest and momentum. In 1998, Manson
album Mechanical Animals reached number one on the Billboard
charts for a largely due to the hit "Dope Show."
The video and a performance at the MTV Video Music Awards
featured an androgynous Marilyn Manson decked out in
bizarre, anatomy-distorting costumes. An original idea?
Not quite. In the pre-millennium era, androgyny was
being explored in a number of ways by the fringe culture.
Is there any country or geographic region where
this consumer profile prevails?
What's so important about the idea of the Prosumer
is that it is 25-30% of the population in virtually
every country, and in every market category. The few
exceptions, we believe are dictated by prevailing cultural
norms. In Japan for example, where the culture tends
to be much more about conformity vs. "standing
out", its less about individual vs. group behavior
An early-warning system
Why now all this marketing excitement with this
Prosumers are important because they both reflect and
shape markets. Being highly communicative, they pick
up what others are thinking and reflect it through the
lens of their own experiences. And, being interested
in innovation, they gather information widely, they
try out new things, and they tell others about those
experiences. Because prosumers are more engaged, more
responsive, and more proactive than nonprosumers, they
can be regarded as an early-warning system. What prosumers
are doing and thinking now, mainstream consumers are
likely to be doing and thinking down the road. Having
advance insights into such shifts-and knowing how to
use them-is what strategic planning is all about.
How does the prosumer influence a product segment?
First and foremost, by recognizing that Prosumers are
"human media"-as "conversational currency"
takes on greater import in creating both attitudes and
demand, the ability of the Prosumer to "pass it
on" (the very essence of the largest, and most
important sub-segment of Prosumers, the "bees"),
is an absolutely critical component of controlling brand
meaning, and brand message.
«Perhaps most important
in maintaining a relationship to the Prosumer is to
recognize (as he does) his value to the brand owner.
Recognition, respect, and providing "something
in it for me" are the keys to building connections
between Prosumers and brands».
How brands should communicate with prosumers, that
don't like advertising?
This is a popular mis-conception. Prosumers resent
heavy-handed attempts to beat them into submission,
preferring instead high-quality, entertaining, intelligent
advertising work-it flatters their well-developed sense
of discernment, and they're willing to admit being influenced
by it. Prosumers place more value on brand names; they're
less likely than non-prosumers to dismiss them as a
marketing ruse. Nevertheless, they don't blindly accept
the notion that brand names guarantee quality or authenticity;
as in other aspects of life, they rely on their research
and good judgment to help them determine whether a product
is worth the asking price. Perhaps most important in
maintaining a relationship to the Prosumer is to recognize
(as he does) his value to the brand owner. Recognition,
respect, and providing "something in it for me"
are the keys to building connections between Prosumers
Does this consumer make sense to the brands outside
de new technologies?
Our work indicates that there are Prosumers in every
category. As much as anything else, they represent a
"passion score", so that his efforts to be
proactive and engaged in a category probably are conditioned
by great "relevance" in the category. Hence,
"techies", but also "foodies", "fashionistas",
"car jockeys", etc. As Prosumption is a mind-set,
those who exhibit the traits are likely to bring them
to bear on most product interactions. But if they are
not engaged in the category, their display of Prosumer
behavior is less likely to be made manifest.
How long does it take to a prosumer trend become
Generally, in our experience, its 12-18 months. There
are some categories (such as pop culture), where by
definition the trends are faster moving, and more transitory.
KEY ATRIBUTES OF PROSUMERS
- Embrace Innovation: they're the first and second person
they know to try new things
- Internally Referenced: they take pride in thinking
for themselves and being experimental
- Communicators: they tell other people about their
experiences with new products, brands and services
- Influencers. Other people ask their opinions and advice
- Skeptical: they don't automatically trust what the
media tell them
- Engaged: they're interested in the now and are engaged
in popular culture
TWELVE KEY PROSUMER TRENDS
- Create their Own Lifestyles
- Don't buy straitjackets
- Choose Smart
- Embrace Change and Innovation
- Love to Be in the Now
- Connect and Interact
- Value Themselves
- Do it by Design
- Expect Good Health
- Value What Works, Fast or Slow
- Are Brand Arbiters
- Want to Learn How
References in the Web: www.eurorscg.com
For more information about the Prosumer Pulse 2004
study contact: email@example.com
The authors: Jorge Nascimento Rodrigues can be contacted
and Catarina Nunes at: firstname.lastname@example.org
© Gurusonline.tv, 2004