The Produmer

Date of publication: June 15, 1989

Author: Andrea Semprini


The fact that certain forms of behaviour were, right from the start, labelled "consumption", while those adopting this behaviour were labelled "consumers", has had weighty consequences for the development of marketing theory. In this article, we shall examine two of these consequences : - 1) The crystallization and polarisation of roles and functions (the producer on one side and the consumer on the other); - 2) The reduction of the field of enquiry to a very literal concept of consumption (exhaustion, destruction). Now, if it is admitted that every product has a symbolic and semiotic existence as well as a material one, and that in addition these forms of existence are increasingly important in our complex economies, it can be said that every act of consumption is also - and before all else - a consumption of meaning. From this point of view, the opposition between production and consumption loses much of its importance, since each consumer of meaning simultaneously produces meaning, and vice versa. The concept of the Produmer appears to us to demonstrate the double nature of the new consumer, who is at once the receiver of the product and the producer of a new meaning surrounding the product. This concept can in particular explain the diversion, re-interpretation or perversion of the product by the consumer. A few examples are suggested below: micro-wave ovens, individual doses for coffee machines, ketchup, low-fat butter. In the conclusion we shall try to show the strategic utility of developing a theory of the produmer alongside the theory of the classic type of consumer, and the assistance derived from new approaches developed in the social sciences, such as semiotics and ethnomethodology.

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