The U2 Download: A Violation of Consumer Control?

October 21, 2014 Marijah Adams-Cleek

U2 iPhone Video ImageSeptember 9, 2014 is a day that will go down in history. Maybe not in history books, but it will hold a sweet spot for marketers and internet users as the day that U2 waved a magical Apple wand and put their new album, Songs of Innocence, in everyone’s iTunes account.

This was groundbreaking because they gave away music for free. In 2007, Radiohead released their album In Radiohead In Rainbows Album ArtRainbows, asking people to pay what they felt it was worth. The Queen of Cabaret Punk Rock, Amanda Palmer, runs her online store on a “pay what you can” system, stating, “I firmly believe in music being as free as possible. Unlocked. Shared and spread.” And both of these bands have been very successful in their respected genres.

What sets U2’s free sharing apart from Radiohead and Amanda Palmer is that Songs of Innocence was automatically placed in everyone’s iTunes account, whether they wanted it or not. There’s nothing bad about a free gift, unless it stampedes all over peoples’ ability to say, “no, thank you.” The problem is that it stripped away any consumer control. Even though the theory of giving everyone a brand new U2 album for $0.00 is totally wicked, in reality a lot of people don’t see it as a gift; they see it as a violation of their consumer control.

What is consumer control in the digital age?

Consumer control is exactly what it sounds like. People who consume products and services want control over how they interact and engage and ultimately decide how they want to consume. Consumerization is happening on every platform, including television, healthcare, and education. Kevin Spacey gave an exquisite speech about changes last year at the Edinburgh Television Festival.

In the mid 1990s, consumerism underwent massive changes because of the introduction of the Internet. Since then, customers have been given increasingly more control over what products are offered and how they choose to participate in the shopping experience. There are options to bid, order online from large or independent companies, have something automatically sent to your home monthly, so on and so forth.

The fact is that consumers are the best experts about how they like to shop, and they provide great insights on how to accommodate their wants and needs. The key to the best customer experience in modern times is to offer several product options and routes, then step back and let customers decided what to do with the possibilities.

How is consumerization of healthcare working?

Consumerization of healthcare is all about consumer control. Prior to the Affordable Care Act, getting insurance was kind of like getting a free U2 album.

Now, things are changing:

  • Accountable care organizations are taking an active role in ensuring overall patient care.
  • Walk-in clinics are available in retail outlets.
  • Urgent care is a preferred option over the emergency room.
  • People can read other consumers reviews before choosing a doctor; they can even shop prices for doctor visits or procedures.
  • Health insurance marketplaces are offering more options to entice new members.

New marketplaces generally have plans and providers galore. And many employers are now opting to send their employees to the marketplace with a set amount to spend. This allows employees to choose a plan that fits their individual needs or those of their families. Although this isn’t the case for everyone, small business marketplaces are on the rise.

And it’s working. Earlier this year, Commonwealth Fund released a report stating that 68% of the 4,245 adults, ages 19-64, who purchased insurance in the Marketplace are happy with their plans. That’s because they chose it. It wasn’t forced upon them without any say in the matter.



About the Author

Marijah Adams-Cleek

Marijah is the resident Blogger and Script Specialist. In high school, she was given the nickname “The Champ” in reference to her ability to “get it done,” no matter what it is. In college, a very persuasive English professor helped her realize that she had a knack for writing which led to a four-year stint as a college English tutor. She now spends her days blogging, collaborating, and breaking into random dance and song.

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