Is “Consumer” An Offensive Word?

Is “Consumer” An Offensive Word?

There are better words to describe a 'consumer,' says noted copywriter Mark Stiltner.

Naresh Kumar
  • 17 january 2011

Is using the word “consumer” disrespectful to describe people who buy products and services? Copywriter Mark Stiltner seems to think so. In his column in The Denver Egotist, Stiltner believes that referring to people as consumers devalues them and gives a negative connotation to the relationship between people and the companies serving them. He says people are more than just consumers; they are also creators and have an ambitious life outside of just consuming things.

Instead, he advocates using the words “customer” or “audience” which better describe and appreciate real people.

From the publication:

It is my long‐held opinion that the word “consumer” devalues people. It strips us down to the lowest common denominator and defines us by our most basic behavior. Even pond scum can consume. At a time when many of our nation’s most deadly diseases are self‐inflicted symptoms of overconsumption, the term also reinforces a negative relationship between people and the companies that serve them. That’s right, the companies are there to serve us, not the other way around. Which brings me to my next point; the term “consumer” places people squarely at the bottom of the commercial food chain. Thinking of potential customers as consumers hinders the way marketers and businesses interact with people. Because guess what? I’m not a consumer, and neither are you.

The Denver Egotist: “Consumer Is a Dirty Word”

Image by jovike


Fitness Advocate: Paving The Future of Workouts With Audio

Fitness & Sport
Travel Today

Bus Stop Transformed Into A Fitness Station For Commuters

Sports drink company Lucozade live-streamed an athletic trainer working out at a stop in Manchester to encourage travelers to get moving

Technology Today

Shiseido And Microsoft Have Created A Makeup Filter For Women Who Telecommute

The Japanese cosmetic company built an augmented reality app that works alongside Skype for Business


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Retail: Technology Primer

See All
Mobile Today

Samsung Is Using AR To Help Beachgoers Stay Safe

Pocket Patrol utilizes a phone's camera to promote beach safety and educate people about hidden hazards

Related Expert

Mike Hudack

Entertainment, Media & Publishing, Internet, Technology

Retail Today

Exchange Your Old Razors For New Ones At This Bartershop

The subscription-based shaving company lets customers trade their unwanted razors for Harry's brand steel at a temporary New York pop-up

Food Today

A Brewer Has Created The Most Expensive Chips To Snack On

St. Eriks Brewery created crisps made from rare mushrooms to go with its artisan beer, donating all proceeds to charity

Travel Today

Melbourne Hotel Lets Guests Stay In Their Own Chrome Airstream Trailers

Notel is a luxury rooftop with six guest rooms made from vintage 1970s mobile homes


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed Today

Marketing Experts: Millennials And The Power Of Cool

'Good Is The New Cool' Authors Afdhel Aziz and Bobby Jones share their 7 principles for branding with a social impact

PSFK Labs Today

The Keys For Exceptional Performance On And Off The Field

PSFK Labs' new report highlights five important insights for businesses to perform better than the competition

Infants Today

Battery Powered Cradle Will Rock Itself

NoomiNoomi is a clever device that makes it easier to put babies to sleep

Sustainability Today

Swedish Citizens Get A Tax Break For Repairing Old Goods

A sustainability initiative encourages people to fix, rather than replace, broken objects

Fitness & Sport Today

How Precision Data Can Make Anyone A Better Performer

The Sports Debrief from PSFK Labs looks at how analytic tools are being developed to optimize human performance across all industries

Home Today

You Can Now Buy Furniture From A Daytime TV Show

Home furnishing online retailer Wayfair is partnering with Lifetime to create a shoppable life improvement television program

Social Media Today

Instagram Tool Prevents People From Harming Themselves

A new anonymous reporting option on the social media platform hopes to provide better emotional support for users

Retail Today

Apple’s New London Store Is Filled With Living Trees And Sunlight

The brand's UK flagship location has been reimagined with a focus on customer experience and community

Syndicated Today

Artificial Intelligence Could Serve As A Judge In The Court Of The Future

A new software program can weigh up legal evidence and more questions of right and wrong to predict the outcome of trials

Brand Development Yesterday

Swipe Left On A Dating World Built To Keep You Single And Disconnected

Hinge's VP of Marketing Karen Fein tells us about the service's daring ditch of the swiping culture that's designed to attract advertising revenue, not meaningful connections

No search results found.