By Geoff De Weaver, CEO + Founder of Touchpoint Entertainment Inc. http://geoffdeweaver.com/
More than any other time in modern history, inspiring companies in this ‘Sharing Economy’ have brand roadmaps that fuse uncompromising customer experience with hugely discounted or value-added rates for their products and/or services. This type of extreme focus has enabled them to become paradigm shifting and transformational companies. e.g. Airbnb, Zipcar, Etsy, Cohealo, BlaBlaCar and Uber
Importantly, to become a transformational company they have broken the rules and bear no resemblance to any other ‘traditional’ bricks and mortar company in the world. Especially with their pricing, convenience and branding. Additionally, I think this summary recently written via Rachel Botsman for Fast Company clearly and accurately highlights the five key ingredients and criteria to truly collaborative, sharing-driven companies today:
- The core business idea involves unlocking the value of unused or under-utilized assets (“idling capacity”) whether it’s for monetary or non-monetary benefits.
- The company should have a clear values-driven mission and be built on meaningful principles including transparency, humanness, and authenticity that inform short and long-term strategic decisions.
- The providers on the supply-side should be valued, respected, and empowered and the companies committed to making the lives of these providers economically and socially better.
- The customers on the demand side of the platforms should benefit from the ability to get goods and services in more efficient ways that mean they pay for access instead of ownership.
- The business should be built on distributed marketplaces or decentralized networks that create a sense of belonging, collective accountability and mutual benefit through the community they build.
Additionally, the terms “sharing economy,” “peer economy,” “collaborative economy,” “on-demand economy,” “collaborative consumption” are often being used interchangeably, though they mean very different things.
Not only does this require a total commitment to never ending innovation, linked to the provision of convenience and seamless end-to-end experience, but it is also what differentiates today’s best and most innovative companies and brands.
In fact, building great brands is a collaborative corporate commitment in an ‘always on’ economy if you are to ensure your ‘platform’ brings customers closer to the innovation process. It also enables makers, partners, stakeholders, venture capital groups and crowd-funders to co-innovate with your brand and service.
Worldwide today, there are now 17 billion-dollar companies with 60,000 employees and $15 billion in funding in the sharing or collaborative economy according to recent research conducted by Jeremiah Owyang and VB Profiles.
In the US alone, more than six in 10 Americans will use a sharing service in the coming year, and by 2017, eight in 10 Americans will be part of the collaborative economy according to The Collaborative Economy Report.
Remember, there is no such thing in today’s marketplace as an ‘equal playing field’ . And, ‘status quo’ is a recipe or code for disaster. Because, if you are to be a leader today, you must anticipate the standards of tomorrow.
A great example to illustrate this can be found in a statement made by Brian Chesney, CEO of Airbnb when he stated “Our business isn’t [renting] the house, our business is the entire trip.” His vision was to create a new paradigm and portfolio of new services that makes the Airbnb experience more consistent from ‘stay to stay’, and that can generate lots and lots of additional revenue. I’ll bet Marriott International, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Hotels, The Ritz-Carlton and InterContinental Hotels Group wish they could add more value like that! (e.g. not having all the expensive assets, services and overheads associated with ownership)
Another point of differentiation for Airbnb is in ensuring: a daily cleaning service to Airbnb proprietors that offers fresh sheets and towels. While this alone isn’t going to change the industry, it is an essential part of a carefully constructed and designed end-to-end solution. It is also just one of the many steps that build loyalty, trust, adds convenience and creates a ‘WOW’ experience. Bottom-line, those companies and brands that best understand their customers will have an unfair advantage in the decade to come.
“Sharing is the New Buying,”
Mobile Technologies, Big Data, Apps and Social have unleashed the sharing economy, which allows companies like: Uber, Esty, Airbnb, Lyft, WeWork, Craigslist, Cohealo, BlaBlaCar, JustPark, Skillshare, RelayRides, Landshare etc. to create and capture value from untapped potential residing in goods but not entirely exploited by their owners. By seamlessly connecting today’s consumers through apps and social media, the best and most innovative companies can make cities along with a whole range of products and services, more accessible. It will also open up more possibilities for consumers and partners to do business and trade.
When I consult to Fortune 500’s and older long established businesses, I always stress, there’s no need to rip up your existing enterprise plans immediately so they can compete with the thousands of digital start-ups. Instead, they need to remember what made their company successful in the first place, and then they can start to evaluate and ‘disrupt themselves’ but importantly, they must better understand and focus intensely on their customers, their goals, needs and wants better and with laser focus than at any time in their relationship and history .
To compete in this dynamic sharing economy, established corporations must develop new strategies and become more authentic. It is also imperative that they understand what resonates with the Millennials and Z’s. Importantly, Generation Z, defined loosely as the group born beginning in the late 1990s, stands to dwarf the Millennial generation and will ultimately number close to 80 million in the USA alone. In fact, they will make up 50 percent of US consumers by 2020 and they will demand authentic brands with philanthropic initiatives. Research indicates that they have already set a ‘higher bar’ for ethic’s, morals and values than past generations of consumers.
In fact, the Millennials and Generation Z don’t care where most Fortune 500’s come from! This means big retailers and little online startups have an equal opportunity to gain Gen Z’s business. Startups may even have the advantage as they are often viewed as unique and more exclusive. I think Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO said it well when he made this statement to potential Shareholders in May 2012:
“We hope to rewrite the way people spread and consume information. We think a more open and connected world will help create a stronger economy with more authentic businesses that build better products and services.”
Additionally, Gen Z has also seen two terms of an African American president, grown up with Climate Change, seen the Refugee crisis in Europe, watched the fault line develop in Ferguson’s black communities who feel targeted by their local police force, tackled bullying online and in school and watched the nation go from conflict to acceptance and approval of gay marriage. Importantly, they are far more open minded, practical, compassionate and solution-oriented than their Millennial elders. But it seems that many Fortune 500 CEO’s and CMO’s ‘don’t get’ or understand the impact of rapidly changing times, tools and targets of today’s ‘Sharing and Always On’ world.
Creating a great brand or company in 2015 doesn’t mean you have to make lots of huge changes all at once. Just making a few strategic and innovative changes, one at a time, like the ones below can make a big difference. Just look at companies like: FanDuel, Oscar Health Insurance, Washio, Shuttlecook, DeskBeers, WunWun, ZocDoc, Flipkart and Buzzfeed for motivation and understanding! Remember, the sharing economy is uniquely placed to reflect our desire as human beings to connect directly and to feel a part of community larger than our individual selves, which serves a purpose far higher than simply the trading of stuff, space and talents.
Make sure your organization is Authentic, Compassionate and Passionate
In today’s global marketing world you can’t be successful unless you have branding that stands out. Logos, UI/UX and overall presentation are the first things people see when they discover your company. You don’t need a massive budget to create great slogans, design or graphics; making branding changes coupled with paradigm shifting ideas is an affordable way to start creating more leads that you can turn into actual paying customers or clients. But if you have the budget, consider hiring a specialist designer to create a professional look for your business. Attractive branding is a great way to make your business standout. Importantly, you can start by creating an overall step-by-step, brand experience while interacting with your customers, clients or fans.
Philanthropy + Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
Both Philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) make immense sense in today’s ‘Sharing Economy’ for all Fortune 500’s as well as any company that is targeting today’s fastest growing consumers – those who are online, use social media and are mobile enabled.
Here is a great example of how Uber is building its brand, trust and using CSR and charity. On their app, donating has never been easier. Any person can simply open their app + donate to your local Goodwill. For more information simply check out their Blog: t.uber.com/sc15
Donating has never been easier.
It is also worth noting that over 75 percent of executives worldwide believe that sustainability is important to the financial success of their companies. However, as of 2010, only around 30 to 40 percent were taking serious steps to embed it into their business practices. Why the significant gap? One reason perhaps is that many companies don’t have a clear or agreed to view on sustainability. Some define it narrowly with regard to environmental performance, i.e. their greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, waste management, and the like. Interestingly, those that take it seriously typically have a more expansive and integrative perspective that links environmental, societal and governance responsibilities together into an overall sustainability or ESG agenda (sometimes joined under the names of CSR or corporate responsibility, social responsibility, or corporate citizenship).
GE’s ‘Ecomagination’ Vision
To illustrate how these governing ideas are put into practice, take the case of Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric, who launched aggressive moves toward “green technology” in 2002 with GE’s ‘Ecomagination’ campaign. In an interview at GE headquarters, he explained his personal motivations,
“One of my passions was to see if you could really build a great and a good company. That has just been a pervasive thought I’ve had for most of my working life. I think people who run companies have to have their own kind of inner core belief about what they want to see done. I want to see if you can be an ultra-competitive company and still one that has compassion. I may be wrong, but we’re going to find out.”
So, what is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?
- Programs that improve social and environmental outcomes while building business value for the brand or corporation
- CSR is also known by a number of other names, including corporate citizenship and corporate sustainability.
- Sustainability is now a permanent part of 70+ percent of corporate agendas – just looks at Starbucks, Campbell’s, Microsoft and many others. To give an example, Microsoft’s corporate citizenship mission is simple: ‘to serve the public good through innovative technologies and partnerships and to deliver on our business responsibilities of growth and value to our customers, shareholders, and employees. This mission not only guides our work as a corporate citizen, but also provides a framework through which our business addresses new markets, technologies, and business models.’
- 50 percent of companies reportedly have changed their business model because of sustainability opportunities. Has yours?
How can a CSR initiative help your business in the Sharing Economy? It can:
- Enhance trust in your company and increase your reputation
- Raise awareness among your internal and external audiences
- Make your company more competitive
- Maximize the impact your business has on the issue
- Build sales
- Develop your workforce
- Boost enthusiasm and innovation
Elements to include in your CSR strategy:
- Develop influence marketing/engagement strategies around your cause(s) as way to reach target audiences
- Create media and messaging to educate and engage stakeholders about your CSR initiatives
- Determine ways you can measure and report your results in online and print media, sustainability and annual reports
There is now an ever-increasing number of ‘touchpoints’ in the buyer’s journey, which is essentially a search for trust. Especially when it comes to Influence-driven CSR initiatives that help to inform trusted individuals, and become ‘touchpoints’ along the buyer’s journey. CSR initiatives can generate credible awareness and recognition for your cause.
How to effectively influence marketing for CSR today:
- Measure the influence of the issues or causes you may wish to align your company with, to determine whether your efforts will be impactful enough for your goals
- Identify respected individuals who are passionate about an issue and can help promote efforts or be directly involved in the initiative
- Create a content strategy, leveraging influencers in the cause, that ‘tells and doesn’t sell’ your CSR initiatives
- Optimize and differentiate your CSR program from others in the space by helping your executives become influential in your cause or initiative, as opposed to being a company that just pays for CSR activities
- Build an integrated portfolio of CSR activities to help increase customer awareness about your CSR activities, i.e.
- Social network pages e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Pinterest, etc.
- Blog articles
- Sustainability section on corporate website
- Owned or Partnered events
Importantly, measure your company’s influence on issue(s) over time
Finally, in order to excel in today’s ‘Sharing Economy’ and attract a majority of new consumers or use digital technologies to directly match service and goods providers with today’s customers, bypassing traditional middlemen, and open up new markets you need to also seriously consider developing your own customized philanthropic plan. A plan that is authentic, sustainable, and innovative. In doing this you will strengthen your brand, influence consumer attitudes, and position your enterprise or company optimally in the desired marketplace.
To your continued success and remember, live with passion!
More About Geoff De Weaver:
Hailing originally from New York; Geoff De Weaver is the globally experienced entrepreneur, technology disruptor and trend hunter behind Touchpoint Entertainment Inc. Touchpoint Entertainment Inc., the ‘next-generation’ Social Media Marketing, Big Data and Live Event Company – that streams live to over 1.5 Billion fans globally. I deliver authentic brand experiences worldwide and are specialist in global branding, social business design, innovation and digital disruption. I help brands bridge the gap between CONTENT, COMMUNITY + COMMERCE.
C-Level, Marketing Strategy, Digital and Communications Leader with Global Experience – including: US (New York City + San Francisco), Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Italy, Germany, Brazil, South Korea, Columbia, Finland, Hong Kong, Mexico, Netherlands, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, China, Indonesia and Canada. Geoff has served as a non-executive director, director and advisory boards.
Geoff has a global 25-year background of representing some of the world’s most iconic worldwide brands including: Coca Cola, IBM, IMG, P&G, Microsoft, Nike, British Airways, Wells Fargo, EA Sports, MasterCard, Shutterfly.com, EA.com, E*Trade, Nestle, Air France, AT&T, VISA, Unilever, EA.com, Ferrari, American Express, P&G, Trend Micro, Acer Computers, BMW, Shutterfly.com, Mars, Pfizer, TiVo, EarthLink Internet, American Express, Telstra and others.
- Geoff has served as a non-executive director, director and advisory boards.
- Top 0.5% Worldwide on Twitter Globally
- Top 1% Influencer on LinkedIn and 32+ million network on LinkedIn worldwide
- Top 1% Most Viewed Profiles on LinkedIn (380+ million members)
- Geoff is a Digital Pioneer, Data-Driven, Entrepreneur, Business Coach + Innovator.
- Transformative, Innovation & Digital Disruption – CONTENT, COMMUNITY + COMMERCE
Feel free to get in touch with Geoff for further information:
You might enjoy these recent posts too: ‘Top Ten Digital, Tech, Entertainment Trends for 2015′: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/top-ten-digital-tech-entertainment-trends-2015-geoff-de-weaver
AND…. ‘Corporate Social Responsibility + Gender Equity = Paradigm Shift.’: http://geoffdeweaver.com/corporate-social-responsibility-gender-equity-paradigm-shift/