October 13, 2007
How do you view your customers?

Sometimes innovative, creative thinking -- in the ultimate service of increasing your business -- is simply about taking a step back to get perspective.

A recent post in the Endless Innovation blog, commenting on an entry in another, Futuristic Play, pointed to an observation that the latter's Andrew Chen made from his participation in a Web-oriented ad conference in New York. As the former put it, Chen found a "huge cultural gap between the East Coast and West Coast" when it comes to thinking about business. (Surprise!)

In New York, Chen reports, "people don't call things User Generated Content (aka UGC)," they call it Consumer Generated Media (CGM)." (The bolds there are mine.) He puts it down to your Silicon Valley types focused on attracting "users" to their sites, whereas, since the New Yorkers "are typically on the advertising side, they see these people as 'consumers.'"

(There are the similarities, too, of course: players on both coasts appear to suffer from the epidemic of acute "Acronymonia," the uncontrollable urge to reduce every human effort to three letters.)
openmouthfish.jpgAs Chen says, it's "an interesting and subtle distinction." Endless Innovation remarks -- talking about the Web, but equally applicable to any business -- "The difference is a big one for any business hoping to expand its Web presence: Do you think of your customers as 'consumers' or as 'users'?"

To me (not to make too much of these particular terms), seeing people just as consumers is to think of them in a passive role; as mouths to be stuffed, you might say. "Users" casts them in an active role: mouths that also have something to say, to contribute. As a consummate user myself, I'm far more receptive to a company that addresses me as a person with something to offer, rather than as a receptacle they wish to pour products into.

It's just one more example of how we have to continually re-examine our basic assumptions and ways of thinking about our business, whatever it is. Naturally, a shorthand develops within any enterprise. Just make sure you continually remind yourself to listen to what you're saying to the people outside, your customers and prospects, and what it sounds like to them.

Photo on Flickr by fiskadoro

"Californians say 'UGC,' New Yorkers say 'CGM'" - in Endless Innovation,
referring to:
"5 differences between a NY ad conference and a SF web 2.0 conference" - in Futuristic Play by Andrew Chen

Posted by at October 13, 2007 06:56 PM



Thanks for the link back to Endless Innovation. For some reason, I found the difference between "UGC" and "CGM" to be particularly jarring. Companies need to think in terms of "users" not "consumers." As you point out, I certainly hope that my favorite businesses don't think of me as simply another "mouth to be stuffed"!

Posted by: Dominic at October 17, 2007 11:48 AM

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