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Ira Matathia, the marketing Guru

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, December 2004

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 interview above.

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 early.

A globalization at the personal level

Which are the similarities and differences between them?

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.

The Manson-Bee

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 segment?

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 and brands

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 a mass-choice?

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.

- 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

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:

For more information about the Prosumer Pulse 2004 study contact:

The authors: Jorge Nascimento Rodrigues can be contacted at:, and Catarina Nunes at:

©, 2004

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