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It’s good to type

in Language Connect, Market Research

Does anyone remember the BT strapline “It’s good to talk” from about fifteen years ago? BT was promoting the use of wireless and mobile phones, and boy, it certainly worked! Looking around at the effects that smart phones and online social media have on consumer behaviour today, we could update the sentiment with “It’s good to type”. Consumer behaviour is in a transformative phase and there is a far-reaching impact on the marketing, advertising and research industries which engage with retailers and consumers.

Web 2.0 traffic is carried out by so-called “prosumers”. The precise definition of a prosumer is debatable although the term generally defines an individual who engages in active or empowered consumption.

Prosumers are seen by many marketeers to represent a new generation of consumers; people who don’t use the net simply to purchase products, but also write about these products. They create blogs, upload pictures and use social networking to express an opinion about a consumer product or service.

An unlimited ability to share and exchange information means that consumer attitudes and expectations are changing rapidly, which can have a positive or a negative effect. On a group level, when the Northern Rock website collapsed in 2007 under weight of traffic, people who were worried about their savings turned to Twitter and other networking sites to organize demonstration gatherings. On an individual level is the man who claimed that United Airlines had broken his guitar yet refused to compensate him, who posted the evidence online for all to see.

Over a million retro-chocaholics joined the fun and persuaded Cadbury to reintroduce the Whispa chocolate bar after signing up to the Bring Back Whispa Facebook (if you go and look at this page, you’ll see that the whole Whispa community has morphed into some sort of soap opera, with Cadbury posting daily updates, gossip and games).

It’s interesting to observe how neologisms that reflect changes in commerce and society often appear first in English before being adopted by other languages. Several commentators claim that they invented the word “prosumer” (it would make a great competition to find the coiner!).

We now have a Prosument (German), Prosumidor (Spanish) and Proconsummateur (French). The term will no doubt make its way into languages where the use of Web 2.0 and the rate of consumerisation are rapid:  countries like Turkey, Poland, Japan, Korea and China.

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