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Transformational Consumers: Who They Are and the Brands They Love

by Tara-Nicholle Nelson
featured, money & life

The companies that are consistently ranked the most innovative in the world aren’t the ones with just an excellent product or service, they’re the companies that target the trillion-dollar market called Transformational Consumers. That means they adopt the following:

  • A problem-first vs product-first business strategy
  • Their key focus is engagement, not just growth
  • They’re making an impact by totally changing their customers lives

Transformational Consumers are the citizens of the world and the web who view life as a continual series of personal disruption campaigns: behavior-change projects to live healthier, wealthier, wiser lives. These people are:

  • Constantly working on themselves in the form of wellness, personal development or financial success.
  • Taking concrete steps to achieve goals through things like 30-Day Challenges, investment apps and online education.
  • They are early adopters of new products and technologies that they believe will further their transformational aspirations.
  • They are also highly influential on the buying behavior of everyone around them.

Transformational Consumers represent 50% of American consumers, and spend over $4 Trillion a year on their aspirations to live healthier, wealthier, wiser lives.

Here are eight examples of brands nailing the Transformational Market:

Airbnb and Lyft empower people to use their homes and vehicles to make money and change their finances (pay off bills, start a business, etc.). Lyft’s CMO, Kira Wampler, once told me that over 30% of Lyft drivers in Los Angeles are actually musicians, actors and artists who say they’re able to maintain their creative endeavors because they can make income by driving. Airbnb’s Head of Product, Joe Zadeh, shared that he sees both their hosts and guests as Transformational Consumers: the guests want non-commercial travel experiences that help them develop as people, and the hosts use their real estate resources to their highest potential.


Want to connect with the most valuable, least understood customers of our time? Join Tara-Nicholle Nelson to understand the inner-workings of Transformational Consumers. Learn more.


Thrive Market is a subscription based ecommerce platform that engages Transformational Consumers through its unique content strategy. Gunnar Lovelace, co-CEO of Thrive Market believes access is key: “What’s so interesting about health and wellness products is that access is a function of price, geography and education.” To overcome the barrier of education, Lovelace explained, Thrive Market “provides content that informs, inspires and educates people about health and wellness wherever they are in the conversation. There are consumers that are very educated about health and wellness, but there’s this huge wave of new consumers entering into the health and wellness conversation for the first time. We engage these people with content on more basic levels, with written and recipe and video content.”

Credit Karma’s 50 million members have used the platform to access more than one billion of their own credit scores since 2007. The company defines itself as “a platform that helps make financial progress possible for everyone.” The company’s model is to never charge consumers and to only take a fee from its bank partners when customers successfully receive a credit card they apply for. The company calls this its win-win-win model, a legacy of Credit Karma’s launch in 2007, at the peak of consumer financial market distrust.

Sixty million Credit Karma customers use the site’s score access and dispute features to raise their credit score, which translates into interest-rate savings. Providing clear insight into the murky world of debt and credit scores and empowering members to save money by improving their scores at no cost? That’s winning.


Want to connect with the most valuable, least understood customers of our time? Join Tara-Nicholle Nelson to understand the inner-workings of Transformational Consumers. Learn more.


In 2014, the pharmacy giant CVS became the first national retail pharmacy chain to take cigarettes and other tobacco products off the shelves of its 7,700 locations across the United States. The $2 billion-plus revenue hit was offset by increases in other lines of business. The bigger win for public health was the 95 million fewer cigarette packs sold in key states during the first year of the ban. But for the company, perhaps the biggest win is yet to be quantified—the impact of the authentic, money-where-its-mouth-is brand message that the company now known as CVS/health has sent to the market, to consumers, and to its critical health-care referral partners, such as physicians and insurers.

In 2015, REI secured massive amounts of positive press, industry awards and praise from Transformational Consumers with a national Black Friday shutdown of its stores. Rather than take advantage of the largest retail sales day, REI closed its doors on Black Friday — encouraging its customers to head outdoors instead. The company also shipped out freeze-dried, meals ready to eat (MRE) versions of Thanksgiving dinner to thousands of its most loyal customers and ultimately inspired donors and state and regional park organizations to offer free admissions to parks all over the country that weekend.

There is a uniquely human force that these brands have all tapped into, whether by design or out of their sheer love for their users. This force is bigger than any brand, bigger than any product, bigger even than any demographic group. This future, in which companies engage in two-way love affairs with their customers by helping them along their journeys, is available to any company or brand that gets serious about tapping into this force.

It is available to you and your company. This force is the human drive for transformation.

And the companies that are tapping into this force have pioneered a path to the other end of the engagement spectrum, with their customers and employees:

  • They are consistently ranked among the most beloved, engaging brands.
  • They consistently achieve stellar growth and beat their competition.
  • They are consistently crowned the best places to work.

By helping their target audience make the critical life changes they crave, these companies have become linchpins in the lives of a powerful group of consumers. They have engineered—and sometimes reengineered—everything about their business to serve Transformational Consumers. To learn more about this growing segment, purchase The Transformational Consumer: Fuel a Lifelong Love Affair with Your Customers by Helping Them Get Healthier, Wealthier, and Wiser on Amazon today.


Want to connect with the most valuable, least understood customers of our time? Join Tara-Nicholle Nelson to understand the inner-workings of Transformational Consumers. Learn more.


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Tara-Nicholle Nelson

Tara-Nicholle Nelson is the CEO of TCI, a marketing, content strategy and leadership development firm that creates transformational experiences for conscious leaders, businesses + customers.