Today’s so-called “collaborative” or “sharing economy” has seen peer-to-peer organisations like Etsy and Airbnb thrive by finding marketplaces for people; and crowd funding providers, such as the UK’s Funding Circle, allow individual investors to pool their money, usually online, to support a business or project. Connecting people and enabling the act of sharing is an intrinsic part of these brands’ business models.
Even established brands can learn from the open and collaborative ethos of these enterprises. We all know that consumers no longer just consume. They’re active, they’re curious and they want a piece of the action. The fact is that this can no longer simply pertain to the marketing or engagement campaigns that brands invest in.
Edelman’s study, brandshare, sampled 11,000 people across the world, evaluated around 100 brands per country and gauged people’s brand-perception based on six key variables: shared dialogue, shared experience, shared goals, shared values, shared product and shared history.
Respondents in the study said they wanted to have a hand in brands’ design and development process. 91 percent said they want brands to enable their personal goals. And people wanted to be asked what they need instead of being told how to get it.
Consumers are taking control from companies and are in the driver’s seat when it comes to using the technology they want and sharing products and services they like. It’s clear then that organisations need to tune in and make some directional shifts, fast.
Some are quickly jumping on this bandwagon – like fashion retailer ASOS, which enables customers to sell clothes they no longer want, allowing people to do things on their terms, in their own time.
BBC Director-General Tony Hall this month outlined a new initiative, bbcwherenext, inviting UK viewers to help shape the future of the BBC. He said, “Our audiences demand to be involved and expect to participate. In the future they will talk to us and we will listen. We should be treating them like owners, not just as licence-fee payers.”
Hall also unveiled the next generation BBC iPlayer, a bespoke experience for every user, and a new service, BBC Store, giving people the chance to buy, watch and keep a selection of BBC programmes.
But how does a brand switch gears to become more of a sharing brand? Well, brandshare gives us some principles that business can follow:
Firstly, get consumers involved in the end-to-end marketing cycle. Developing a long-term relationship with the customer and getting products and services into the hands of new customers is key to creating true brand advocates. Clever use of social media can support this. Engaging key audiences through a community based approach can improve business functions and products.
Secondly, simplify your brand narrative. Creating a harmonized brand story that reflects people’s needs and interests – not your brand’s – shows that you’re in touch with your consumer.
Thirdly, don’t just sell to people. Finding ways to meaningfully share – instigated by people, and not company executives – creates huge opportunities for organisations to expand relationships to everyone’s benefit.
What do these three principles have in common? They’re guidelines for businesses to build their brands around their customers.
No doubt it will be tough for some companies to share. But, in order for a business to truly be meaningful to today’s generation of consumers, this move to a sharing revolution can’t be ignored.
Ruth Warder is managing director, JCPR.
Image by Flavio.