Here’s a new business model with which you may not be familiar: Collaborative Consumption. Simply put, Collaborative Consumption is organized sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting, and swapping through online and real-world communities. The philosophy behind this idea is not new—if you’ve ever been in a carpool, stayed with friends or relatives when travelling, or checked a book out from the library, you’ve been a participant. Today, however, propelled by social technologies and economic and environmental imperatives, we’re seeing a surge in Collaborative Consumption, with many new sharing models and business opportunities emerging.
Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers examine the rise of this new cultural and economic phenomenon in a new book, What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption (HarperBusiness/HarperCollins Publishers, 2010). In the introduction to their book they write: “The more we examined these trends, the more convinced we were that all of these behaviors, personal stories, social theories, and business examples pointed to an emerging socioeconomic ground-swell; the old stigmatized ‘Cs’ associated with coming together and ‘sharing’—cooperatives, collectives, and communes—are being refreshed and reinvented into appealing and valuable forms of collaboration and community.”
The authors cite Collaborative Consumption examples from social lending (Zopa) to car sharing (Zipcar) and co-working (HubCulture), from peer-to-peer rental (Zilok) to collaborative travel (AirBnB) and neighborhood sharing schemes (Neighborgoods), where people are using the principles and dynamics of Collaborative Consumption—sometimes without even knowing it. Along the way, say the authors, people are getting the same fulfillment and benefits of actual ownership while saving money and lowering their environmental impact.
In other words, say Botsman and Rogers, “More and more consumers are opting for access over ownership; use over possession. People are moving into a new realm of consumerism, one marked by trust between strangers, and as Kevin Kelly, the founder of Wired, describes it, ‘shared access instead of ownership.’” They continue: “As our possessions ‘dematerialize’ into the intangible, our preconceptions of ownership are changing, creating a dotted line between ‘what’s mine,’ ‘what’s yours,’ and ‘what’s ours.’ We don’t want the CD; we want the music it plays.”
The rules, motivations, and dynamics required to manage these types of brands are very different from what it took to build a brand even a decade ago, say the authors. They maintain that it takes a community, not a campaign, to create a collaborative brand.
In a recent article, Botsman wrote for the Financial Review, she offered 10 tips for companies that want to build a collaborative brand:
1. Think of your users as members, not consumers. Give them all the traditional benefits of joining a “club": status, identity, and shared interests.
2. Interact honestly with your members, versus shouting at them in one big monolithic voice.
3. Invest a lot of time greeting your first wave of core users and then, on an ongoing basis, introduce them to other members.
4. Empower your brand evangelists with simple, sticky tools and language that is easy to spread and share.
5. As your brand grows, recognize and reward evangelists for their role in your success.
6. Capitalize on the psychological social influence of “everyone’s doing it,” making your brand a popular movement worthy of joining.
7. Let go. You can’t pick and choose what gets spread or try to control the way advocates choose to advocate.
8. Criticism is helpful. In almost every critical blog post, tweet, or angry complaint there’s something of value.
9. A chief marketing officer, CEO, or founder is not a brand ruler, but rather the best host and grand guardian entrusted by the community to “do the right thing.”
10. To build a collaborative, social brand, your culture must be collaborative and social, too.
Botsman and Rogers believe that Collaborative Consumption is an idea whose time has arrived. They write: “The convergence of social networks, a renewed belief in the importance of community, pressing environmental concerns, and cost consciousness are moving us away from the old top-heavy, centralized, and controlled forms of consumerism toward one of sharing, aggregation, openness, and cooperation.”
The authors have taken their message to heart: on the frontispiece of their book they encourage readers to “barter, swap, or pass on this book.” Readers can also sign up online to track their book on its journey throughout the world of Collaborative Consumption.
For more information about What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers, visit www.collaborativeconsumption.com