• Brandminds 2020

The rise of prosumers is the latest challenge for marketers

On this page:

  1. Definition of the prosumer
  2. The reasons consumers turn into prosumers
  3. Prosumers – an opportunity for marketers
  4. How could marketers facilitate prosumption
  5. 4 steps marketers should take to make the most of prosumption
  6. Conclusion

As a marketer, it’s your job to know everything there is to know about the people consuming the products for which you are creating marketing campaigns, brand activations and advertising.

They are the consumers.

But who are the prosumers?

Prosumers – definition

Prosumers are the people who produce some of the goods and services entering their own consumption.

The prosumer is not a new concept. In his book, ‘The Third Wave’, futurist and businessman Alvin Toffler predicted the decline of consumers and the rise of prosumers, people who produce many of their own goods and services.

Next year will mark forty years since Toffler published his book in 1980 which means enough time will have passed allowing us to see if his prediction was correct.

Marketing guru Philip Kotler recognized the importance of prosumers for brands and marketers and in 1986 he published an essay in Advances in Consumer Research Volume 13 – The Prosumer Movement: a new challenge for marketers’. In his essay, Kottler builds upon Toffler’s concept of prosumers from a marketing perspective.

Two reasons for consumers becoming prosumers

Instead of purchasing products and services from the market, prosumers can be found making their own clothes, cooking their own food, rearing their own cars and hanging their own wallpaper, says Kotler.

Why do people become prosumers?

Why would they rather produce their own soap than buy one of the many choices the market has to offer?

Kotler identified two reasons: better quality and self-actualization.

Prosumption activities for better quality products/services

Mass production is the manufacture of large quantities of standardized products often using assembly lines or automation technology.

To produce the products, manufacturers are always looking for ways to drive costs down sometimes at the expense of their workers, environment and overall quality of the product.

A lot more care goes into a product prosumers build or produce themselves, from the quality of the materials used to the finishing look. These prosumers care about what goes into the food they eat, the clothes they wear or the detergents they use to wash their children’s clothes.

Hollywood actress and mother of three, Jennifer Garner became increasingly concerned with the quality of food she was feeding her babies.

She began making her own organic, cold-pressed baby food blends. Her blends are free from preservatives, colours, concentrates or added sugars. Just like the food she used to eat when she was a little girl, living on her parents’ farm.

Her company, Once Upon a Farm is a member of the Organic Trade Association and a Certified B Corporation which means the company meets the highest standards of overall social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability.

Read more: 3 successful businesses founded by Hollywood stars

People would favour “make” decisions over “buy” decisions.

Philip Kotler, The Prosumer Movement: a new challenge for marketers

Prosumption activities to achieve self-actualization

Self-actualization means the full realization of one’s creative, intellectual, or social potential.

The concept has been popularized by Maslow in his hierarchy of needs pyramid where self-actualization is the ultimate life goal. Maslow defined self-actualization as follows: “What a man can be, he must be.”

How is prosumption tied to self-actualization?

To answer this question, we must first know what self-actualization is for each person.

Is it becoming a painter? Or taking care of children? Empowering people of all ages to change their lives by acquiring a new set of skills?

Whatever it is, self-actualization is different for everyone.

agricool_guillaume_gonzague-min (1)
Agricool co-founders Guillaume and Gonzague / agriculture.gov.fr

French startup Agricool has reinvented the way strawberries are grown and potentially agriculture as an industry.

Co-founders Guillaume and Gonzague came up with the cooltainer, where fruits and vegetables grow vertically.

The cooltainer doesn’t harm the environment, is cost-effective and 100% sustainable. Agricool also created the cooltivator, a new kind of urban farmer. The cooltivator uses the cooltainer to grow their own greens, essentially having a garden in their apartment.

Prosumers – an opportunity for marketers

In his book, Alvin Toffler said prosumerism will usher in the end of marketing.

Philip Kotler has a more positive perspective. Although the increase in prosumption activities means fewer customers for mass-produced goods and services and less consumer interest in brands, he believes marketers should view prosumerism as a challenge and an opportunity for creativity.

Kotler says as follows: “Instead of marketers fighting prosumers, they should look for opportunities to facilitate prosumption activities.”

How could marketers facilitate prosumption:

1. Create better tools. Create better tools for prosumers to use, including better electric power tools for carpentry work, better tools for farming small plots of land, and so on. Agricool is a great example of empowering urban farmers to grow their own food.

2. Simplify the product on the process. “Painting by number” kits allow “Sunday painters” to produce better-looking paintings. “Adhesive wallpaper” allows more people to hang their own wallpaper.

3. Create how-to content. People looking to produce products need to acquire new skills. Think of ways to help them achieve their goals. It could be by providing them with the opportunity to attend evening classes. Or publishing how-to-do content in various formats: text, video or audio.

4 steps marketers should take to make the most of prosumption according to Philip Kotler

  1. Identify the most popular prosumer activities;
  2. Think through appropriate product and service responses;
  3. Direct your promotion appeals to themes stressing individuation, skill-building, and productiveness;
  4. Develop more specialized messages to reach these highly segmented target markets.


Alvin Toffler’s prediction of the rising prosumers was correct.

Philip Kotler’s prediction of marketers creating messages for highly segmented customers was correct.

He was also accurate when thirty-four years ago he envisioned the increase of how-to content. Today how-to videos are in top four content categories watched by YouTube users next to comedy, music and entertainment/culture.

Creating highly personalized messages is one of Facebook’s recommendations to advertisers looking to increase ad conversions. Being relevant to your customer’s needs is the secret to advertising success.

Relevancy is the word for email marketing also. Email provider MailChimp found that segmented email campaigns perform better than non-segmented campaigns.

One more marketing insight Kotler was right about: people searching for “others with kindred interests, finding them and communicating with them through electronic media”. In the late nineties, people joined discussion forums. When our lives came under the influence of social media, people created Facebook Groups to share information, support and help each other achieve their dreams.

As Philip Kotler says in his essay, prosumers should be looked at as another market segment.

The marketer’s role is to creatively support prosumers achieve their goals.

The aim of marketers should not be to protect the exchange system. The purpose of exchange networks is to facilitate the pursuit of human satisfaction. If the market system is overextended, and if people want to meet more of their own needs, on what grounds should marketers object? The market, after all, is a human invention and it will last as long as it serves human needs.

Philip Kotler

Join the Conversation

We’d love to hear what you have to say.

Get in touch with us on our LinkedIn GroupFacebook Group or Twitter.

If you liked the article, you might also like the followings: