Sharing and Collaboration

Businesses think they own their products and experiences. That’s why they brand them, put their personal mark on them, and make signature experiences.

The role community members play in creating and developing successful brands is a stark change. This collaborative shift is caused by technology in the form of social and  mobile, and a new “we” ethos brought on by millennials.

Last week, my friend Jeremiah Owyang and the Altimeter Group team released a major study called The Collaborative Economy that drove this point home.

Brands continue evolving from something discussed to collaborative distribution channels built on the premise of sharing products and services. In many ways, collaboration provides an opportunity for businesses to create a new sales channel, something I will discuss later this week on the Vocus Marketing blog.

Beyond the core business opportunity, the movement marks a larger economic and cultural shift towards community based models.  Socialism and its less successful offshoot communism produced global failures centered on fulfilling the ideal of community based sharing. In an ironic turnabout, the collaborative economy leverages capitalism to fulfill that  ideal through a pretty cool market based approach.

Not Everyone Wants, Needs or Can Afford to Own


Collaborative business models provide customers a new choice, the ability to avoid ownership while sharing and enjoying an experience. Some collaborative customers may not want to maintain or would not have access to offerings prior to companies like AirBnB and Uber.

Smart brands have been engaged in this model for years, even decades.  Consider that Harley Davidson has allowed motorcyclists to rent bikes at local dealers.  Or how Amazon turned excess server space into the cloud hosting model.

Whether the business is B2B or consumer expensive investments can be made accessible to larger groups of customers though community-based economics. Renting or selling shares empowers brands to embrace more of their potential community. For example, a BMW dealer in Jeremiah’s report noted that one rental car produced nine new sales.

Some people will always prefer to own, and know a product or service is theirs alone and won’t be touched, used or experienced by someone else. There are some products and services that just don’t fit this model. Not everyone wants to share their runway debuted piece of clothing or expensive athletic shoes.

But the collaboration model has mass appeal and significant societal, economic and technological drivers. Better yet, it’s battle tested.

My Shared Collaborative Experience


The Nationals unveiled a new electronic ticketing system for season and partial season plan holders this year. The new Ultimate Ballpark Access makes sharing tickets with groups and friends much easier. It’s a primary example of using technology to empower a collaborative experience.

As a father of a two year old, I could never consider a fulls season ticket plan for a baseball team. So I bought a partial plan.

I “own” my seat, and have access to playoff tickets before the general public. BUT, there is no way I can go to even 20 games.

Ultimate Ballpark Access allows me to share the tickets with my business colleagues and friends by simply typing their email address in and pressing send. If I wanted to, I could sell my excess inventory through StubHub on the system. The technology helps my little community of Nationals fans share my humble 20 game experience. Go #Natitude!

It’s a great experience made possible by technology, and it also acknowledges the truth about sports leagues that have more than 10 home games a year: Most casual and even loyal fans can’t make the time commitment to attend a majority of games. But many Washingtonians consider themselves Nationals fans. Many locals would like to attend a game or three throughout the year, but don’t want to commit financially. StubHub serves as a channel for fans that want access to tickets reserved for season ticket holders.

We can now share that experience with ease thanks to technology.

Now if my local Porsche dealer will let me share a Cayman S a few weekends a year, I’d be a happier man!

What products, services and cause activities would you be willing to rent or share?