Is That a Customer or a Consumer?

While going through a case study the other day I was struck by how often the word "consumer" was mixed with the word "customer". It goes to show that even some of the brightest minds forget. I thought I would set the record straight.

What's the big difference? Well, this simple distinction can sometimes determine if an advertising campaign is a success or a flop. I would argue, knowing this difference is important in any industry. Healthcare, food service, computer manufacturing, jewelry, flower shops. They all have customers and consumers. Knowing who to address and when will make the difference.

The best part; it's a very simple concept:

  • Customers—purchase the product or service
  • Consumers—the end users who "consume" the good

Yes, it's that simple. But sometimes it can mean everything. An example might help.

Jewelry sales are the standard case study. In most transactions men are the customers, the ones purchasing the fancy necklace. The consumers are the woman who will wear the necklace. Jewelry stores must cater to both groups in very different ways. A woman is going to respond to the latest styles and most likely have specific things she is looking for such as colors, sizes, and stones. The man will be looking for the best value, pricing options and warranties. This is why most jewelry commercials will attempt to appeal to both audiences with their best, most expensive jewelry in a variety of options, while simultaneously advertising their industry leading financing and return policies.

Of course this concept goes much deeper and gets much more complicated. But, remembering the basics can sometimes go a long way.