The Transformational Consumer's IRL


How to Build and Market Products That Change People’s Lives


Lesson Info

The Transformational Consumer's IRL

We're gonna talk about two specific, almost personas of transformational consumers here. Just so you can have a little bit of flavor for what these people really look like. (laughs) I will say that Christopher is a composite of people, and I think we have enough time that I can actually kind of point out for you the common, recurring characteristics, things that I hear all the time. Ann is the second story we're gonna go through, and Ann is an actual friend of mine, she's a real person, real breathing, living person. In the book there are several personas given. So, Christopher, Christopher is a 40 year old financial officer. He was an athlete in high school, he still thinks he's an athlete in his mind. (all laugh) He has not been very athletic lately. (laughs) 'Cause he works a desk job, I mean, he's an actual human being in 2018. So he works a desk job, his doctor's been like, you really should work out. (laughs) And he's like, yeah, I really should, that's it. He does pay his gym du...

es. (laughs) He doesn't actually go, but he does pay the dues. Then one week, some things shifted. Friday the doctor's office called and told him that he's pre diabetic, and he starts immediately kind of Googling what are you supposed to do if you're pre diabetic, and he's like, okay, this is something I can reverse, but then he had dessert that night. Saturday, he was like, I'm gonna get up and go for a run. And he did, but it was really hard, 'cause he hasn't been running in forever, right? So he runs a couple blocks and he's like, oh my gosh, this is, why is running so hard? I don't remember running being so hard. So he runs a couple blocks. Sunday he goes to church and sees, and this is literally from a story a customer told me, I went to church, and I looked up at the big glass windows on the side, and I was like, wow, that window's really distorting my reflection. No it's not. (laughs) That's just actually the size you are now, the window is not distorting anything. So Sunday he goes to church, he sees himself in the mirror, and he's like who is that? That's not what I think I look like in my head. But then he had two servings of potatoes at brunch after church. Monday he gets a Facebook message from a work friend asking if he can have a drink after work. He goes to meet with him, and his friend looks great. His friend looks better and younger than he did when he saw him five years ago, and he's like, what is even happening with you, right? So, well that's what I would say, he probably said, you look good. (all laugh) I would be like, what is even happening with you? His friend says I'm training for this bike ride called Aids LifeCycle, and I had a friend who passed away from Aids and I just kind of decided I wanted to do something, so I started training for this ride, and the friend's ride was from Chicago to Minneapolis, so it's a few hundred miles, and it had kind of kick started the friend on this new fitness thing. So Christopher goes home, he starts Googling it, he's like, hmm, LifeCycle, that's interesting. Kind of looks interesting, he mentions it to his wife, he kind of was getting competitive. So this is one thing I will share from you as a segmentation insight, all people adhere better to their fitness goals when they do them with friends. It's just in the data, but for different reasons. So women tend to appreciate the support and accountability. Men tend to appreciate the competitive, that came out over and over again in our research at MyFitnessPal, that I think I actually might be a little more like the men in that way, on my bike I have to turn the leader boards off 'cause I just get too aggressive about it if I can see what other people are doing I'll like push myself so hard that it's no longer fun, but that is a generalization that we have seen by gender. So there's something about this that made him think about competing with his friend, the fact that his friend looked so much better than him was making him be like, maybe I should really do something. So he looks up LifeCycle, he decides to go to the orientation and just learn what it's about. The nearest ride for him is the one from San Francisco to LA, it's a long ride, and it's like you've gotta train every Saturday for six months, it's this long commitment. But he comes home, he's excited about it. It seems more exciting than trying to reverse pre diabetes. Right? Trying to do this long bike ride seems like something that's fun to put your energy toward. The other thing is not. He hasn't do anything but eat dessert and potatoes since his doctor told him that he was pre diabetic so he figures, maybe I'll try this bike ride thing. So he talks with his family, talks with his wife, they're like into it, let's do it. So he goes, the next step is, he's got this list of stuff from the LifeCycle organizers that he's gotta buy to get ready for this ride. So he takes his kids to the sports store, they buy all the stuff, he downloads Strava, the cycling app, he downloads MyFitnessPal, syncs them, he's like really into the idea, he loves to see his miles rack up. There are many reasons that fitness tracking works, but there is a group of people who doesn't care about any of the insights, they just like to see the things add up, they like to see that log. And so, just because he's training, he's feeling better, he's not drinking as much soda, he's not really drinking beer anymore, he realized using the apps together that one beer was the same amount of calories as a two hour bike ride, and then he was like, oh no. (laughs) I like beer, but not that much. So he and his wife, and his wife is kind of getting into it too, so they make some rules, they make some rules of thumb for the house. We can have a drink or dessert any time we go out, but no ice cream in the house, no alcohol in the house. So they start making these deals and rules, and he loses 30 pounds in the first 90 days, without weighing himself, he doesn't know it. He knows he feels better and lighter, and he's thinking a little quicker, but the doctor calls him to come back to have his blood sugar checked again, and he's no longer pre diabetic and he's lost 30 pounds, and he's like okay, this is kind of amazing. He is starting to, his knee's kind of bothering him, so some of the other people in the LifeCycle program get him to come with them to CrossFit, he starts doing that, he gets his wife to come, she gets into it, they start experimenting, they're not all the way Paleo, but they're experimenting with Paleo diets and they're experimenting with Ancestral Health. They decide that they're going to set up a reward for themselves for the whole family. When he's done with the ride, everybody gets to take a trip, 'cause it's been a little bit of a sacrifice, for the kids to not have their Dad around on Saturday and that sort of thing. So Christopher and his wife start emailing each other the links from TripAdvisor. What about this? Or let's go here, and ultimately they decide that they're gonna go on a mission trip to Peru and then they'll do a vacation through the rainforest into Machu Picchu. So he works from January to June to be ready for this ride, to do this ride. He gets on the ride and it's kind of all set up by the organizers, he doesn't have to do anything except for ride every day, and he's trained for that, so it goes really great. On the first day of the ride, before he leaves home, he sends a Facebook message to his friend telling him that he's lost 50 pounds and he's no longer pre diabetic, and his family is no longer sedentary actually because they've all kind of shifted in this way. So he goes on the ride, and he goes on the trip, and they have all these transformational new goals they set in the course of that, and when they get back, they go back to CrossFit, because it's just kind of part of their deal now. So that is actually a composite of several customer stories, but it's not at all extreme or bizarre. A bunch of the things I told you about, including the rules about no ice cream at home but you can eat dessert any time you want, you can have a drink out, but no alcohol in the house, those are very common nutritional rules that people, that transformational consumers make. They set food rules of thumb all the time to help themselves. The couple things that this story illustrates beyond that are that the path of a transformational consumer toward a goal is really usually not linear, and it may not be logical. This guy was told he had pre diabetes, which you would think would inspire you to make some change, and then he had dessert that night. He had potatoes two days later. The thing that actually inspired him was this competition with his friend, right? That was really in his own mind. And maybe seeing himself in the mirror, and all those things happening, it's actually surprisingly common to hear people say, I had like four things happen in a week, I had five different things happen in a week, and that accumulation of, I saw a picture of myself and was like, oh my gosh, and I was huffing and puffing up the stairs, and two or three things happening at the same time is very common to hear as a galvanizing reason, a progress trigger for fitness behavior change. And you know, people take steps forward and they take steps back, that's just how humanity works. It's also the case that our transformational consumers' fitness goals, and wellness goals, and endeavors often overlap, and snowball, and spread to the people around them, right? So if you cut out bread, it's not bizarre that that snowballs into maybe trying a Paleo diet, which may snowball into you wearing the blue light blocker glasses at night, or shutting your screens off earlier because you're trying to live more as the cavemen lived. And the social contagion is very real, very frequently their endeavors will spread to the people around them and in their lives. Okay, now let's talk about my friend Ann. That's my friend Ann, and her husband Dirk, and their children, they live in Oakland. Let's see. So Ann is a transformational consumer in a bunch of ways. She lost 80 pounds some years ago, she took up dance as a hobby and now teaches. One of her children has autism, so she stopped working full time and started her own technical writing business that does very well, so she can work at home and have flexibility for him. So she wouldn't call herself a transformational consumer, but when I talked this through with her, she was like oh, yeah, I guess that's true. After the election, Ann felt like she wanted to help her children feel like they could express themselves really in a powerful way, and in particular, the Girl Scout troop. (laughs) So she called me up and was like, okay so I have this idea. I saw this image I really loved, and I thought I could maybe make some yard signs and help the girls sell these signs, and we'd sell them for $10 each, and $5 of each of them would go to the ACLU or whatever organization we agreed with. She was like, does that make sense to you? And I said, no. (laughs) 'Cause I know you've given so much money to these organizations that you believe in, except that it totally makes sense as just a way to express who you are and declare your beliefs in the world. Self expression by itself is a worthy goal, so you guys should do it. So first they sold 100 signs, then they sold 150 signs, and now they've sold 2000 signs. So with her children, she's actually donated over $10,000 to various organizations that they feel like represent the values and goals that they believe in. And when people give her extra money, she donates the extras to schools. So what's been interesting is to see that snowball, there was an elementary school that was just covered recently in the news where they actually had, the kids started making their own versions of signs and they did a 750 person kindness march through their town, all kind of as an outgrowth of this one person deciding that it was really important for her to, as part of her effort to be wiser, to be a good citizen in the world, to do this initiative. Now I bring this example up in particular because I want to illustrate that the transformational consumer framework can often be used in a cultural context, in a context of current events, and zeitgeist, to understand what customers will want, need, and be doing in that cultural context. So one of the reports that's in the download is actually called manifesto marketing, and it kind of is an outgrowth of this customer trend that we're seeing, which is sort of a trend toward everyday activism, where everyday people, who are not activists by any stretch are reading the news headlines and feeling activism drawn out of them in ways that they've never done it before. There is a desire for self care in a way that shows up as a desire for tribe and connection with other people who are like minded. So we are actually seeing a lot of mantras and t-shirts with mantras on them, the pink hat, the safety pin right near the election. All of these things are signals and ways that people are looking to take care of themselves by connecting with tribes of other people who think the same way and share ideas and support. We're seeing that customer trend, actually in transformational consumers around just gatherings, that aren't even necessarily commercially based. So there are a number of organizations around the country doing things like the Good People Dinners here, there's an organization called Family Mills in New York, all around there are these sound healing events, where people are just kind of getting in the room together with someone playing a gong and some singing bowls to feel better, but to gather together and feel better. And so, there is another way in which this customer activism and the current cultural zeitgeist is showing up in transformational consumers that is very strictly manifesto marketing, which I've talked about in the book and in the report. Customers are demanding that brands, and even their employers, will put a stake in the ground on certain issues. They want to know what they're about, they want to vote with their dollars, we've seen this in terms of some big boycotts in certain industries after news stories. Everyone here has probably seen or heard the Simon Sinek Ted Talk, or read the book, Starts With Why. The idea that customers don't care as much what you sell, but do care a lot why you sell it has never been truer than it is in this moment in time. So part of the way we understand transformational consumers and their endeavors to be healthier, wealthier, or wiser right now, is understanding their endeavors to be customer activists, to vote with their dollars, to demand that they know the positions of the companies that they patronize on current events, and to connect with each other, and signal to each other, and build tribes together. This is my invitation to continue the conversation in any of these ways, so transformational consumer insights obviously with strategy, we also do run a number of marketing mentorship and group coaching experiences. You're welcome to email me if you want more information about that. You can also come to Soul Tour to get my Transformation Tuesday newsletter, or join one of our free 30 day writing challenges for conscious leaders and creators. They are uplifting and help you build a daily writing practice. Remember to get your bonus downloads at

Class Description

Who are transformational consumers? They are the 50 percent of customers who view life as a never-ending series of behavior change projects. They’re constantly looking for products and services to help them get healthier, wealthier and wiser.

Why should you care about transformational consumers? Because these people spend more than $4 trillion a year in their quest for betterment. Not only that, they’re ready and willing to embark on a wild love affair with your brand.

Tara-Nicholle Nelson, author of “The Transformational Consumer,” will share actionable strategies, marketing insights and product advice to help you better understand the human journey of the most valuable, least understood customers of our time.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Identify who transformational consumers are, including their defining characteristics, how they feel and what motivates their actions.
  • Make a business case for serving transformational consumers.
  • View customers through the lens of transformation rather than demographics, big data and product feedback.
  • Figure out which digital features, products and content will reach and engage these consumers.
  • Overcome challenges such as poor revenue growth, marketplace threats, underperforming content and customer disengagement by focusing more on transformational consumers.