Tuesday, May 08, 2007

What is a transumer, and why should I care?

The folks at NameWire (the team behind the Strategic Name Development Blog) posted an interesting piece last week about company names and the fear of commitment. One of the terms I came across in the post was "transumerism." I had seen it before, but I have to admit that I had forgotten all about it. Since it was hyperlinked, I clicked on it, and found this fantastic article from Trendwatching.com that put it all in perspective... and then some.

So... what are transumers? According to Trendwatching.com:

TRANSUMERS are consumers driven by experiences (instead of the ‘fixed’), by entertainment, by discovery, by fighting boredom, who increasingly live a transient lifestyle, freeing themselves from the hassles of permanent ownership and possessions. The fixed is replaced by an obsession with the here and now, an ever-shorter satisfaction span, and a lust to collect as many experiences and stories as possible.* Hey, the past is, well, over, and the future is uncertain, so all that remains is the present, living for the 'now'.
Sounds a little existensialist? Okay... The term initially began thus: transumers are consumers in transition (like travelers). That was it. The trend just focused on them and "the many novel and innovative shopping opportunities at airports, train stations and hotels catering to this crowd."

The term, by the way, was coined by Fitch - the global design and business consultancy - back in 2003.

Things have obviously changed since then, and the trend is evolving fast.

So why should anyone care about transumers? We're getting to that. Here's a multi-part tip:

Observation #1: "Luxury is an ever-reliable indicator of what next generations will consider basic necessities (thus often revealing the Next Big Thing)."

Observation #2: "Luxury consumers are spending more, in many cases lots more, on life-changing experiences, while their need for luxury goods is waning."*

Conclusion:
"With experiences starting to trump goods, many fixed items run the risk of becoming synonymous with boredom, with hassle, with quickly-out-of-date, with maintenance, with taking up too large a part of budgets, if not lives.

Now let's look at the definition of a transumer again:
TRANSUMERS are consumers driven by experiences (instead of the ‘fixed’), by entertainment, by discovery, by fighting boredom, who increasingly live a transient lifestyle, freeing themselves from the hassles of permanent ownership and possessions. The fixed is replaced by an obsession with the here and now, an ever-shorter satisfaction span, and a lust to collect as many experiences and stories as possible.* Hey, the past is, well, over, and the future is uncertain, so all that remains is the present, living for the 'now'.
For better or for worse, this trend is growing fast. Think about how most people buy technology now, from MP3 players and digital cameras to laptops and cell phones. Think about recreational gear like golf clubs, triathlon bikes, sunglasses, tennis rackets and fishing poles. Think about clothes and accessories. Even big ticket items like cars and large flat screen TV's. Think about the appeal of Starbucks, Whole Foods, Aveda, and all of the other stores whose bread and butter isn't the quality of the product itself, but the entire experience surrounding a consumer's interaction with that product and the brand in general.

I would venture to say that transumerism is probably much more relevant to US consumers under the age of 40 than over the age of 60... but that's just a blind assumption.

Okay, maybe not so blind, but whatever.

I really urge you to read Trendwatching.com's brilliant little primer on transumerism, and find out more about how transumers interact with spaces, surprise, pleasure, freedom, and causes. It's a great read.

It's also a fascinating take on shifting consumer behaviors and how smart branding can help companies take full advantage of this growing trend.

Have a great Tuesday, everyone. ;)


* Spending on luxury experiences in the US, including travel, dining, entertainment, spas and beauty services and home services, nearly doubled, from an average of USD 11,632 in 2004 to USD 22,746 in 2005: a 95.5 percent increase" (source: Pam Danzinger, Unity Marketing).

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