Dr Ross Honeywill – author & social scientist

Honeywill Pic 1

Ross Honeywill

is an internationally recognised social and data scientist specialising in extracting value from the digital marketplace and developing learning management tools for the workplace. For two decades Ross Honeywill has been using deep data analytics to identify consumer cohorts with the highest value potential.

A bestselling author, his books have been published on 3 continents with his most recent US business book an Amazon Top-100 bestseller in its category.

He is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Tasmania’s school of business & economics, and executive director at the Centre for Social Economics, a professional services firm based in Melbourne, Australia. He is also CEO of the NEO Group in North America.

Dr Honeywill has assisted global and national brands including Lexus, Sony,  Moët-Hennessy, Yahoo!, Texas Utilities, Qantas, National Australia Bank, Westpac Broking, David Jones, Foster’s Group, Fairfax Media, ACP Magazines, Macquarie Bank, Tourism Victoria, Energex, among others.

Creator of the Desire Economy and the NEO typology – both powerful economic models that map and measure high-value consumption – his work is predominantly in North America (NEO) and Australia (Desire Economy).

In 1997 professional services giant KPMG bought his Values Bank Research Centre and re-badged it the Centre for Consumer Behaviour, with Honeywill as its inaugural director in the Asia / Pacific region. He soon became an internationally recognized authority on the impact of digital disruption on business and management. Prior to KPMG he was a research director and business strategist. Before that, he worked as a retail manager for national chains and in arts administration.

Ross Honeywill has a PhD from the University of Tasmania. He has served as Chairman of Tasmania’s Festival of Voices and was a board member of the Melbourne International Film Festival. He was chairman of judges for the 2013 Tasmanian Literary Awards.

Dr Honeywill  lives in Melbourne, Australia with  installation artist and writer Dr Greer Honeywill.

Bestselling Author

Ross Honeywill’s business book NEO Power (Scribe, 2006) has created an international following, and his sell-out first book I-Cons was published in Australia, New Zealand (Random House, 2001) and Mainland China (Citic, 2004). His most recent business book One Hundred Thirteen Million Markets of One, published in North American, recently became an Amazon top 100 bestseller in the business/consumer category.

In 2008 Ross Honeywill’s first creative non-fiction book was launched to critical acclaim at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival. The book, Lamarck’s Evolution: two centuries of genius and jealousy (Pier 9), launched him to a general readership. His next book WASTED, the roller-coasterstory of the violent and creative life of Jim McNeil, a bestseller in Australia, was published by Penguin in September 2010 (Penguin’s Viking imprint). WASTED was shortlisted in August 2011 in the Ned Kelly Awards for true crime writing. It is currently under development as a major motion picture.

Of Lamarck’s Evolution the Melbourne Age said, Spellbinding reading … a story full of arch enemies, machiavellian conspiracies and passionate debate”The Canberra Times said,Honeywill writes beautifully in this fascinating story.”

Of WASTED Bob Ellis said, “A fine, nuanced narrative – this is a remarkable road trip movie of a book” and Corrie Perkin wrote “Honeywill is a great storyteller … this engaging narrative wil have you turning pages vigorously.”

Of The Man Problem Dr James Stewart said, “This is a book that challenges our normal understanding of the history of masculinity. Explosive and devastating in its analysis, it will no doubt have the effect of shocking many readers with its radical observations about the role of men in undermining Western society.”

Ross Honeywill is currently working on Somewhere Else to Die, his debut novel (recipient of Arts Tasmania development grant).


  • 2001: I-Cons: the essential guide to winning and keeping high-value customers (with Verity Byth) Random House
  • 2004: (Chinese edition) I-Cons: the essential guide to winning and keeping high-value customers (with Verity Byth) Citic Publishing, Mainland China
  • 2006: NEO Power: how the new economic order is changing the way we live, work and play (with Verity Byth) Scribe Publications
  • 2008: ‘Managing the Innovation Faultline’ – chapter in Inside the Innovation Matrix (with Verity Byth) Australian Business Foundation
  • 2008: Lamarck’s Evolution: two centuries of genius and jealousy Pier 9 (a Murdoch Books imprint)
  • 2010: Wasted: the true story of Jim McNeil, violent criminal and brilliant playwright Viking (a Penguin imprint)
  • 2012: One Hundred Thirteen Million Markets of One: How the New Economic Order can remake the American economy (with Chris Norton) Fingerprint, USA
  • 2014: ‘It’s Not a Glass Ceiling; It’s a Masculine Fault Line’ – chapter in Gender Discrimination and Inequality, The Spinney Press – editor J Healey
  • 2016: The Man Problem: Destructive Masculinity in Western Culture, Palgrave Macmillan (New York)
  • 2017: Somewhere Else to Die, a novel (recipient of Arts Tasmania development grant 2014)

To read more about or to buy the books…click HERE

The Desire Economy

When predicting global growth economists and demographers typically track the rise of the Asian middle class, but it is actually the emergence of the Desire Economy that is transforming global markets.

Consumer demand can, in economic terms, be broken down into its constituent parts – (a) needs and (b) desires (wants). Consumers need, for example, to own a car. The majority act on that need, frequently imitating what they’ve seen on TV or the choices their peers make. They look for the right car at the right price. A significant minority, however, desire to have a car that goes beyond basic needs and price, a car that perhaps feels sporty, looks sexy, or has a roof that goes up and down at the touch of a button. They willingly pay a premium for premium products and experiences that match or stimulate their heightened levels of desire. And they spend more, more frequently, than anyone else.

The myriad individuals that comprise the Desire Economy need the commodities of life just like everyone else, but it’s what happens next that sets them apart. And next, after the satisfaction of needs, comes elective consumption. For consumers in the Desire Economy, needs are a given. They are, however, constantly vigilant for experiences that either support or stimulate desire. They both need and elect to spend money in response to desire. The world is, therefore, split into two fundamentally different consumer mindsets, so different in fact that you could view them as coming from different planets.

Over on Planet Traditional, consumers are attracted to brands offering the right combination of price, features, and status – in short, the best deal. While on Planet Desire consumers seek out rich experiences, individuality, authenticity, and choice – in short, the extraordinary. On Planet Desire a consumer generates 2.6 times the value of her or his cousin on Planet Traditional.

In Australia, half (49%) of the people in the Desire Economy have a university degree, compared to only 15% in the Traditional Economy. Desire Economy consumers have progressive social attitudes and 47% are in professional or managerial roles, compared to 11% of Traditional Australians. Thirty-nine percent are early adopters of technology compared to only 5% of the transactional consumers in the Traditional Economy. Consumers with the Desire mindset earn more than anyone else, but, more importantly, they spend more – almost all (93%) are in the Big Spender category (top third of elective spenders) compared to only 5% of the 9.5 million Australians in the Traditional Economy.

But what makes the two consumer mindsets so different? Unlike behavioural economics, Desire economics does not rely on the rationality of consumer decision-making to predict spending propensity, purchase intention, spending behaviour, and potential value.

The Desire Economy has three prevalent dimensions:

  • Desire: Desire consumers need to eat and drink, but desire to eat and drink something more pleasurable than bread and broth. Desire consumption is both emotionally and neurologically significant – the brain changes and rewires itself in response to the neurotransmitter Dopamine being released. This neuroplasticity promotes repeat ‘pleasure behaviour’ – and frequency is critical to any yield model. Desire consumption, unlike the occasional and reluctant Traditional consumption, is insatiable.
  • Attitudes: At the heart of Desire consumers’ belief and knowledge systems, values and attitudes internally shape behaviour. Attitudes determine what they feel, what they believe, and as a consequence are central to how they behave. Attitudes answer the behavioural why
  • Heuristics and Intuition: Desire consumers take mental shortcuts to make decisions based on intuition or personal benchmarks rather than transactional logic or rationality. They do not always conduct a mental cost-benefit analysis in making a purchase decision, but frequently take an emotional shortcut akin to ‘falling in love’. Price then becomes not an equation but simply the cost of falling in love.

The 4.5 million Australians and 60 million Americans in the Desire Economy have 182 definitional factors that discriminate them from the transactional pragmatists in the Traditional Economy. But they are not just another market segment. In fact, they are not taxonomic at all, they are dimensional. In other words they can be identified, mapped and measured but their ‘dimensional mindset’ transcends conventional classification or segmentation. This mindset modelling, therefore, integrates seamlessly with enterprise-specific customer segments.

NEO Consumer Typology

Ross Honeywill’s NEO typology is defined by 194 factors, and is a complex model with a simple interface. It has three master consumer types:

  • New Economic Order (NEOs)
  • Evolving NEOs (Evolvers)
  • Traditional Economic Order (Traditionals)

Each type is scored to 5% increments (i.e. each has 20 detailed levels). There are 60 million American NEOs, and 6 million Canadian NEOs.

NEOs are largely metropolitan dwellers, with more of them living in inner urban NEO cities like Denver (Colorado), Melbourne (Australia), Vancouver (Canada), San Jose (California), San Francisco (California), than anywhere else.

While NEOs range over all age groups, they tend to be younger than Traditionals. NEOs exceed the national average in every profile between age 20 and age 50, while Traditionals exceed the national average in every age profile above  50.

Half of all people with a university degrees are NEOs. Put another way, when compared to Traditionals, four times the number of NEOs have college or university degrees. They are as committed to learning a living as they are to earning a living.

NEOs are most likely to be in professional or management occupations and earn more than the rest of society. Specifically, they are five times more likely than anyone else to earn in excess of $100,000 pa. Ninety-three per cent of NEOs are in the Big Spender category, compared to only 4 per cent of Traditionals (many of whom earn high salaries or are wealthy).

The NEO typology is a consumer classification defined using Psychonomics – standard psychographics (values, attitudes & behaviour) + a statistical discriminant model (SDM) using multivariate modelling (to characterize the differences between consumer types) + a spending propensity model (SPM) to identify the respective economic impact of each consumer type.

Psychographics + SDM + SPM  =  NEO typology
             Population data

It operates at a societal level providing an analysis, across the population and the economy, of the consumer types that are the most influential – economically, politically and socially. It therefore sits above, and can easy integrate with, market segments developed at an enterprise level.

The NEO and Evolver consumer types are psychographically similar, but may exhibit different spending characteristics (an Evolver may have a majority of NEO attitudinal and values factors, but not conform to the requirement by the NEO algorithm to also be in the top 25% of spending). The Traditional consumer type is statistically (behaviourally and attitudinally) different to both NEOs and Evolvers.

Philosophy of Science

Ross Honeywill is also well known for his work on Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck, an 18th-century science philosopher who, pre-dating Charles Darwin by 50 years, created the first comprehensive theory of evolution. Honeywill, citing the work of Dr Edward J. Steele, created a concept he called meta-lamarckism bringing together the best of both Darwinism and Lamarckism.

According to Dr Honeywill’s work on Steele, forces outside DNA are at work determining which and why different genes are turned on or off. Meta-Lamarckism has RNA collecting changes from the soma (body cells) and not only taking them back to the germline (sex cells) but also translating them into DNA language. Characteristics acquired during a lifetime are being transcribed back into DNA.

Reflecting on Steele’s work and the visceral reaction it produced among some scientific communities, Dr Honeywill stresses that the real issue is whether a modern, well supported Lamarckian theory can be devised, consistent with well-documented parts of modern molecular genetics, and be able to be articulated with a surviving core of Darwinian natural selection. A kind of meta-Lamarckism that combines the best of both Lamarck and Darwin. One outcome of this research was the publication in 2008 of Ross Honeywill’s book Lamarck’s Evolution: two centuries of genius and jealousy.

Social Philosophy and Gender Equity

Ross Honeywill developed the ‘Man Problem’ theory that destructive masculinity is threatening the human race. One outcome of this project is his new book The Man Problem revealing destructive masculinity as the social, political and economic problem of our age. It challenges every man to acknowledge the problem by rising to the solution.

Exposing the impact of destructive masculinity on Western culture, Dr Honeywill explores how the masculine legacy of the Enlightenment has been constructed (in modernity), deconstructed (in postmodernity) and reconstructed (in the liquid present). Ranging across philosophy, feminism, sociology, psychoanalysis and critical theory, The Man Problem explores the origins and impact of destructive masculinity. It examines poetry, plays, canonical critical works, news items, scientific texts and new sociological research.

The Man Problem not only diagnoses destructive masculinity, but also reveals a possible way forward – a prognosis for society to surpass the annihilative potential that resides in every man. With rape, domestic violence, terrorism, genocide, even the war against nature on the rise, this is a theory and a book for its time.