I don't mean when-a-person-buys-your-product consumer. I mean when you start to view all people as consumers.
When we talk about consumers we tend to talk in general terms and assumptions. "The target audience is 22 - 54 years old, married, probably 2 kids, lives in a house, likes things, hates bad people, etc" We all do this. We may want to sell to that target audience, but that does not describe the 'people' that constitute it. It also doesn't help anyone market effectively to those individuals. How many similarities between a 22 year old and a 54 year old are there?
We tend to look at consumers with weird golden rules. We want all consumers to be our friends, while at the same time paying us with their attention and then their pocket books. I'm as guilty as the next person - often in my blog referring to The Customer in this way. The customer is always right. We want share of wallet with that consumer base. Today's consumer is not easily deceived by our crafty advertising. When was the last time your befriended a neighbour by shouting over the fence "hey 22 year old male, listen here, have I gotta deal for you...". You probably sold him that lawn mower, but he probably didn't invite you over for a beer.
This mindset leads us to create a sense of numbness and inpersonality around 'the consumer'. They become some other form. We use sentences to describe how we interact with them or to define what action we want from them. How does our consumer identify value? What is the differentiators our consumer will notice? There are two easy ways to step out of that foggy world.
1) Check your sales. Are people buying? No? Then what you are selling they do not like. It could be more complicated than that, but usually that's the problem. If they do like what you are selling you are poorly priced in comparison to the benefit you deliver to them. This is far less a marketing problem than a corporate problem.
2) Change the tone of the discussion. "How does our consumer identify value?" covers up the real point: "What do people want from us". "What are the differentiators" good to know, but better is "Why do people buy from us". You're thinking he just said the same thing in two different ways. The use of the word 'people' changes the response. Make it personal. If you want people to have a relationship with your brand, you need to pull your weight on the other end.