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 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

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3 Successful Businesses Founded by Hollywood Stars

Hollywood movie stars are famous, successful and creative.

Here are 3 businesses founded by Hollywood stars to fuel your inspiration and entrepreneurial drive:

1. Nikki Reed – BaYou with Love

Twilight series actress and conservationist Nikki Reed started her company BaYou with Love when she couldn’t find products in the fashion industry that were ethically made, sustainable, chemical-free.

She partnered with Morgan Bogle, founder of Freedom of Animals and together they spent a year developing BaYou with Love.


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Springtime is here! Stacking shapes and textures // Bayou With Love rings made from 100% recycled tech gold

A post shared by Bayou With Love (@bayouwithlove) on

Ethical business – Conscious sourcing and sustainable production

Nikki and Morgan design jewellery, women clothing line and beauty products.

The company uses eco-friendly materials and technologically advanced production of recycling plastic for fabric.

The core value which drives BaYou with Love forward is the ethical decision to not harm the planet, the people and the animals. Therefore the company uses conscious sourcing and works with a Los Angeles based manufacturing facility that prioritizes ethical and sustainable production within their facility.

Their designs are made from natural and sustainable fabrics like cupro, recycled cotton canvas, tencel, post-consumer plastic, low chemical content chambrays and organic cotton.

Sustainable fashion is now, not later, and conscious consumption is an every day opportunity to make a better world. Bayou with Love is here to help pave the way.

Latest reports show only around 12.5% of electronics are responsibly recycled globally. It is estimated that our phones alone contain more than $60 million in gold and/or silver which are thrown away every year.

Electronics contain many valuable resources that can be recycled and upcycled. Dell and their partners have a process for extracting gold from old computer motherboards that is 99% more environmentally friendly than extracting gold from the earth. Not to mention the ethical benefits by avoiding the harsh labour conditions where gold is so often mined.

BaYou with Love jewellery collection is made from e-waste in collaboration with Dell which provided Nikki with gold responsibly extracted from recovered technology. She created two 14-18 karat gold jewellery collections (The Circular Collection and The One Earth Collection) from upcycled gold and conflict-free gemstones.

2. Hugh Jackman – Laughing Man Coffee

Hollywood actor Hugh Jackman rose to global fame thanks to his amazing portrayal of Wolverine, the comics action hero. His personal interests outside the film industry have lead the Australian actor to social entrepreneurship.

Here’s the story:

In 2009, Hugh and his wife Deborra were filming a documentary in Ethiopia on fair trade coffee. The actor was interested to learn the difference fair trade makes to the coffee farmers and the environment. Here he meets Dukale, an Ethiopian coffee farmer who works hard to provide for his family. Hugh is impressed with Dukale’s struggle and returns to America to share his story and tell the world how vital fair trade coffee is to these farmers, their families and their communities overall.


Hugh Jackman and Dukale / dukalesdream.com

In 2011, Hugh founded The Laughing Man Coffee company. The company’s mission is to deliver premium fair trade coffee and give back to the farmers who produce it.

Fair Trade Coffee – Premium coffee and Support for the coffee farmers and their families

Hugh also started The Laughing Man Foundation which supports coffee farming communities by investing in social programs. The foundation is currently running two programs in Huila, Colombia: 100 homes will benefit from housing improvements and 40 families will be able to access college scholarships.

The Laughing Man Coffee brand is sold in two Laughing Man cafes located in New York. The cafes are successful and the customers love the coffee.

In 2014, the brand was acquired by Keurig Green Mountain, the world’s largest purchaser of Fair Trade Certified coffee in the world. Hugh said this acquisition rescued The Laughing Man Coffee brand from getting into franchising and risk losing quality control.

Hugh donates all his profits to the foundation.

3. Jennifer Garner – Once Upon a Farm

Actress Jennifer Garner acquired worldwide fame with her lead roles on the television series Alias and Hollywood film Elektra. Jennifer grew up on the family’s eighty-three-year-old farm; her mother would prepare delicious and healthy homemade meals for Jennifer and her six siblings using exclusively the vegetables and fruits provided by the land.

Now a mother of three, Jennifer became increasingly concerned with the quality of food she was feeding her babies. She remembered her own childhood at the farm and in 2018 she joined Once Upon a Farm as co-founder and Chief Brand Officer.


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⛱The unofficial start to summer starts now. #picnicseason // : @secondcitymom #feedfresh

A post shared by Once Upon a Farm (@onceuponafarm) on

Healthier food for a healthier world

Once Upon a Farm prepares and sells organic, cold-pressed baby food blends. Each blend is made from organic ingredients which can be traced right back to the source and don’t contain preservatives, colours, concentrates or added sugars. Some of the fruits and vegetables in the blends are grown on Jennifer’s own family farm in Oklahoma.

Our mission is to nurture our children, each other and the earth in order to pass along a healthier and happier world for the next generation.

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.

Since Jennifer joined the company, the business grew 10x. Once Upon a Farm smoothies and apple juices are currently sold in 8,500 grocery stores in the U.S and recently the company received a $20 million Series B investment.

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Get in touch with us on Facebook Group and Twitter.

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