Going beyond ‘producers’ and ‘consumers’

Categorization is an important tool in the human sense making process. We often tend to look at the world around us and study things and phenomena by trying to understand how they differ from each other. To a point this is a very good practice – it enables us to organize the chaos around us. However, there is no ‘one best way’ to categorize. Hence, as our understanding of the world and of ourselves grows, we need to reframe the categories we use for interpreting the world. This is when the challenge arises. The ‘traditional’ categories are so deeply ingrained in us that they become more of a constraining force than an enabling one. They hinder our ability to see things in a new way.

One of the aims of service-dominant (S-D) logic [1] is to make us to see beyond the traditional categorizations that constrain our understanding of marketing and business in general. It does this by offering concepts that transcend the conventional categories we use in our everyday lives. One of these is the concept of service – applying your skills and knowledge for the benefit of another – that overcomes the separation of products and services (for more information see my previous post). This time, however, I’m going to focus on another conventional categorization – that of dividing the world into ‘producers’ and ‘consumers’.

If exaggerating a little – and a little really is enough – the traditional story goes like this: the world of business consists of ‘producers’, who make things of necessity and value, and of ‘consumers’ who buy and consume these things and then come back to ask for more. In other words, the ‘producer’ is seen as a creator of value and the ‘consumer’ as a destroyer of value [2] (or at least as a very passive participant of whatever is going on).

Producers and consumers

Instead of this imbalanced and one-directional logic of business and value creation, S-D logic suggests that all actors, such as individual people (me) or groups of people like households (my family), companies (my employer, grocery store, cell phone manufacturer), etc. actually are doing fundamentally the same thing: engaging in exchange to create value for themselves [3]. This is done through offering service – the application of my knowledge and skills for somebody else – in order to receive service – application of other person’s knowledge and skills for my benefit – in return. In the modern world this direct service-for-service exchange is often masked by money (the right for service) as the service that I can provide is not what the person or persons, whose service I would need, really want. Instead, I work (provide service) for a company, who pays me money by which I can acquire service from somebody else. It is this thick soup of service-for-service exchanges that creates the complex systems of interconnected actors that co-create value together. Why co-create? Because, whether we want it or not, none of us could do it all by ourselves.

Resource integrators


[1] Vargo, S.L. & Lusch, R.F. (2004) Evolving to a new dominant logic for marketing. Journal of Marketing, 68 (January), 1-17.

[2] Vargo, S.L. & Lusch, R.F. (2011) It’s all B2B…and beyond: Toward a systems perspective of the market. Industrial Marketing Management 40, 181-187

[3] Vargo, S.L. & Lusch, R.F. (2008) Service-Dominant Logic: Continuing the Evolution. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 36, 1-10.

5 thoughts on “Going beyond ‘producers’ and ‘consumers’

  1. Nice piece. I especially liked the first paragraph that touched two general issues I’ve been thinking a lot during past several years: categorization (of knowledge) and the limitations to thinking set by prior, deeply ingrained categories and concepts.

    • Thanks! Categorization is definitely an interesting topic. If you are interested to pursue the topic, I would recommend reading more about paradigms and paradoxes. You might also find the institutional logics and framing discussions interesting:)

  2. Pingback: Why value co-creation? | Service Science Odyssey

  3. Pingback: Value co-creation in the culture sphere | Done in a second

  4. Pingback: Value co-creation | understandingsite

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