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The Prosumers Have Arrived and Will Be out in Full Force This Holiday Season, According to Context-Based Research Group.

BALTIMORE -- Consumer Anthropologist Uncovers Proof of New Species of Consumer

Twenty-five years after Alvin Toffler coined the term "Prosumer" in his book The Third Wave, Consumer Anthropologist Robbie Blinkoff says the Prosumer is officially here to stay and that this holiday season is their coming of age. "Think of it as the coming out party for a new species, an evolution in a consumer mindset. It is now the producers -- companies, manufacturers, marketers and retailers, who need to adapt," said Blinkoff.

A Prosumer is part producer part consumer. Prosumers are engaged in a creative process of producing a product and service portfolio with guidance from trusted friends - the companies they've trusted for years and the new ones they've come to love.

Certainly Toffler's prophesy was becoming a reality with mass computer consumption, Internet, Cable TV and digital technologies available, but Blinkoff, a Principal Anthropologist at Context-Based Research Group in Baltimore, says something dramatic happened to the Prosumer landscape that sped up the evolutionary process. That monumental event was 9/11.

"9/11 unleashed a full scale remapping of the cultural landscape. People were and are re-establishing their identities - their sense of who they are," said Blinkoff. "And given that consumerism is at the core of our culture, its no surprise that we went to our culture core to help us regain our identity."

These times have also lead people to re-connect to basic core values, which includes building and firming up social relationships. And this, says Blinkoff, is another key component to Prosumerism: "In this early evolutionary stage, Prosumers seek out the social in all that they do."

More than ever it is about membership in a group vis-a-vis the activity and product and/or service you prosume. For example, Prosumer trends include scrapbooking, book clubs and the re-emergence of knitting. In each case, people actively engage in a productive and consumptive activity that clearly connects the actors to membership in larger social circles. The same rules apply with more mainstream products. Blinkoff points to the I-Pod. It starts with those white headphones, he says, the outward sign that you belong to the I-Pod tribe. Then it's all about the "box," he says: "Prosumers are really just making stone soup," commented Blinkoff. "They find a good pot, and with a lot of help make a really good brew. The I-Pod's not all that different - it's only as good as what you put in it and how you use it. And Apple is there to make sure you've got all the material you need."

Scrapbooking, knitting, I-Pod, book clubs, reality TV and even religion are indicators of this trend. But Blinkoff says the connections are even more anthropologically dramatic. "The funny thing to me," says Blinkoff, "is that the behavior we're seeing is quite similar to what we saw during our research with a small group of hunter gatherer gardeners in Papua New Guinea. People there, and Prosumers here thrive on the meaning and social relationships they imbue into, and receive from, the intersection of the people and objects they interact with."

So was Toffler right? Well, certainly the behavioral trend suggests so and for Blinkoff applying the Prosumer experience model helps his clients to better understand their customers. Through anthropological research, companies understand how existing and future products fit in a Prosumer world. And when companies do this, Blinkoff says, we all benefit.

So if you want to snare one of these critters, Blinkoff suggests setting a simple trap:

"Build a really cool box, leave ample room for the Prosumer to play and stay in control. Leave a ready supply of materials around that fit the box in a variety of ways. Then wait. Your Prosumer will come, build, and stay for a while.

As long as you feed them.

Context-Based Research Group provides insight that companies can't get from traditional focus groups, surveys and lab-based research. Context's approach combines the qualitative research skills of cultural anthropologists, the creativity of professional designers and the communications and business strategy of marketing experts. We observe and interact with people to figure out how they adapt to and fit products and services into their lives.

Context's proprietary global network of over 3,500 cultural anthropologists report observations in real time and can be assembled to address research problems quickly and efficiently. They observe people in their home, work and play environments, listen to their stories, watch what they do on a day-to-day basis and then turn those discoveries into actionable plans, innovations and applications. The end result brings clients closer to the actual experience of their customers and leads to development of better products and services.
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Nov 18, 2004
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