June 7-9: Brand-Led Culture Change Virtual Event

The Collaborative Economy:
2014 Hot Topic and Trend

According to a Berkeley study, one properly shared car reduces the need for nine owned cars.

Participating in a car co-op may not be up your alley, but there are plenty of Millennials eschewing ownership and Boomers that are downsizing who buy into the notion of the “Collaborative Economy” — making co-owning cars a viable option for some.

The Collaborative Economy is associated with sharing resources to reduce waste, but its primary focus is on the economics of collaboration and the efficiencies of networks. The Collaborative Economy seeks to harness crowds, collectives, communities and co-ops to co-create, co-ideate, co-design, co-fund, co-own, co-build, co-distribute, co-market, co-sell, co-profit and co-prosper.

While collaboration in business may seem counterintuitive to competition, many highly competitive industries such as auto and hospitality are adopting collaborative practices that are disrupting and innovating. Some call this “co-opetition,” while others call it “open API business” (a nod to the app-ification of our world).

As marketers, there are three questions that we should be asking ourselves relative to the Collaborative Economy:

  1. How does it impact my customers, products, services, distribution and pricing model?
  2. Within my organization, how do I develop a greater awareness for collaboration and sharing?
  3. If Brand = Crowd & Co, then how do I maintain control over my brand?

Next year, we will see the Collaborative Economy concept, or ideal, shift from being mostly a niche, male-dominated topic associated with Silicon Valley programmers to a mainstream topic that marketers and brands will be discussing — and looking for ways to address. Social listening indicates that men comprise double the percentage of women discussing the Collaborative Economy right now, but this is starting to change.

And just as we see women become more involved, we will also see new jobs arise, such as the “Chief Collaboration Officer” as companies introduce “Collaboration Departments” to work in tandem with marketing departments. Imagine your brand’s social media has a “collaborate” button next to “shares” and “likes.” If this were the case, social collaboration could trump social engagement.

In addition to news jobs, the Collaborative Economy will also have big implications on the marketing industry at large. Here are some trends that will arise from the adoption of the collaborative model:

  • Durability Over Design — Products that are shared need to be designed to withstand wear and tear, thus durability will figure more into innovation. Durability may be more prized over design and aesthetic upgrades as products are designed for longevity.

  • Credit to Cogs — Products that are collaboratively manufactured beg questions about trust, quality and accountability. In response, new businesses will emerge that will police the cogs in the wheel and enable team players to get due credit (and payment) for their contributions.

  • Modularity Marketing — It’s much easier to collaboratively manufacture something if the product is designed in modules. The “chunking” of stuff — from packets of data to pieces of products to buckets of brand messages — is a mindset that is permeating marketing.

  • Bandwidth Deficit — The Collaborative Economy is only as strong as its networks. However, the data required to connect “seekers with solvers” is reliant on Internet connectivity. America will push to add more Internet connectivity, from Google fiber to WiFi hot spots. That is a marketer’s dream come true.

So, in 2014, mind your “Cs” and “Qs” as in CQ (collaboration quotient). In the green marketing space, “reduce, reuse and recycle” is now “weduce, weuse and wecycle.”

For a crash course on the Collaborative Economy check out this Slideshare presentation.

This post first appeared on MediaPost on December 9, 2013.


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