Saneel Radia « BBH Labs
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  • Creative Direction vs. Creative Selection

    1st April 11

    Posted by Saneel Radia

    Posted in creativity

    Author: Pelle Sjoenell (@pellesjoenell), Executive Creative Director, BBH LA

    I believe Creative Direction isn’t just Creative Selection. I’ve noticed the two are often confused and I think it’s the result of agency process. Creative Direction is about having a vision and making sure the vision is clear to everyone involved. Having a vision doesn’t mean coming up with or choosing the ideas. Having a vision is about leadership, constantly inspiring and instigating. That’s why Creative Direction has to start early in collaboration with planners, even before a brief is written, and follow through to the end of the rainbow. In other words, if Creative Direction is done right, you should never have to select. You never need to resort to the role of a bouncer. Or simply giving things thumbs up or thumbs down.

    The process can only be fixed if the Creative Director doesn’t sit above others. Creative Director is just another kind of job. No one works for a Creative Director. Everyone works for the idea. The idea hires us and we go to work. The Creative Director’s relationship with the idea is unique. It’s a combination of three professions – a politician, a farmer and an assassin. The politician handles the multiple stakeholders of the idea, traditionally pursuing different agendas. The farmer’s part is to nurture the idea so it can grow from interesting to awesome. This means identifying which add-ons, or fertilizers, will make the work better and which will hurt the crops. Lastly, the Creative Director needs to be able to shape shift into an assassin. This means isolating any threat against the beautiful, fragile idea, and putting it to sleep forever.

    Playing these three roles requires the Creative Director to be involved early and broadly. It’s when Creative Directors are involved late, or are too far removed, that their job becomes that of Creative Selection. Ultimately, that’s but a minor part of the job.

  • Effyeahpretzelcrisps

    7th March 11

    Posted by Saneel Radia

    Posted in social media

    Author: Emily Woolf (@emii), Strategist, BBH New York

    It’s Monday. Almost an average Monday at the office, but today I went above and beyond my routine and made myself a salad for lunch! Partially due to the fact that Fresh Direct came this morning and partially because I’ve been attempting a gluten free diet, this leafy green point of pride made today special and I couldn’t wait to share it with the world. Some may call me an oversharer (cough: @barneyrobinson) and some may make fun of my food Instagram tweets (cough: @saneel), but I wasn’t going to let either rain on my parade. So, I sat at my desk savoring my spinach and beet salad, fork in one hand, iPhone in the other snapping away to get just the right shot, then scrolling through to apply just the right filter to capture the magic of my homemade goodness. And I did. And I sent my color saturated, Lomo-fi filtered picture straight to Twitter. And guess what happened? Within 5 minutes @PretzelCrisps had started following me and had Tweeted at me.

    Of course I immediately DM’d back, excitedly starting a conversation with a brand that I had no opinion of about 5 minutes prior.

    As you can see, the conversation centered around what they could do for me and they always responded within a minute. All in all, an extremely, and refreshingly human exchange.

    This experience got me running around, ducking in and out of offices to tell people about it. Everyone was in awe of @PretzelCrisps’ behavior, as well as how they continued to engage me. It was a quick, powerful burst of brand dialogue, in the vein of a social media fling. @PretzelCrisps just proved that creating a relationship isn’t that hard in a conversational environment when you’re adding to the experience (complimenting me) and not asking much for much in return (an address for instantaneous delivery). They just made a huge impression on all of @BBHNewYork, both as consumers, and as industry folks aspiring to help make brands human.

    Kudos and thanks @PretzelCrisps.

  • The Human Operating System

    3rd March 11

    Posted by Saneel Radia

    Posted in coding, guest

    Author: David Bryant (@davidbryant), Google Creative Lab, NYC

    Disclaimer: David’s opinions are not necessarily those of Google Inc (editor’s note: BBH does advertising work on behalf of various Google products).

    Human beings have spent around 2 million years working with physical objects in physical space. We are hard-wired to enjoy throwing things into the air, at animals and at each other because mastery of these skills has given us a huge evolutionary advantage.

    We understand the inter-relationships between weight, inertia, texture, tensile strength, brittleness, velocity and gravity so well, we’ve even given it another name. We call it instinct.

    When we cross the road in front of a car, we are judging the speed of the car and the width of the road and performing fairly complex calculus in the process. Some would say that we are not really doing the calculations in this case – we are simply using instinct.

    Calling this process ‘instinct’ isn’t very helpful because it doesn’t explain anything. We’re simply renaming the observation, rather than attempting to explain it.

    The truth is the calculations do get done. We use a neural-based learning system rather than a set of solvable equations but the calculation does happen. It’s part of our operating system.

    Only after Humans had being throwing things around for a couple of million years, could we get down to the slow business of developing useful abstract notions. Like a positional system of mathematics, time, complex numbers, algebra. These are all things that are not hardwired. On the contrary they are remarkably counter-intuitive to our operating system and have taken centuries of trial and error to grasp them.

    With these abstract notions we created computers, and interestingly, computers have evolved towards us, in completely the opposite direction. They started life as deeply abstract calculation engines. Nowadays, with rich graphical interfaces, touch screens, large icons and finger control they are increasingly feeling like physical objects.
    Read full post

  • Agencies making digital products should co-create with customers

    22nd February 11

    Posted by Saneel Radia

    Posted in collaboration


    20 Jay Street, home to Miami Ad School (photo credit: dumbonyc)

    I recently spoke to Miami Ad School students in Brooklyn via Steve Peck, one of the creatives at BBH New York, who teaches a class on Digital Product Development. There’s been a clear shift toward digital product development at agencies in recent years and it seems to be the work we respect most of one another if award shows are any indication (and I’m not sure they are).

    However, what I find most intriguing about the future of product development at agencies is the intersection with collaboration. I continue to believe that serving as a scaffolding for customers to engage with brands beyond transactions is a huge opportunity for agencies, and that we’ve only scratched the surface thus far. If agencies want to develop digital products (even when they are simply extensions or features of the analog products created by our clients) and customers want to co-create with brands, the opportunity is compounded. After all, creating digital things is what most collaboration tools at large are built to do. Looking at things from this perspective makes the future of agencies seem bright, especially when one witnesses first hand what students like those at Miami Ad School are capable of.

    Below is a copy of my presentation (special thanks to Brian Moore, a Media Designer here at BBH that helped design it, and whose transitions are unfortunately lost via slideshare).

  • Why Quora’s design tension is the biggest challenge they face

    17th February 11

    Posted by Saneel Radia

    Posted in Uncategorized

    About a month ago, we posted an anti-Quora rant. It triggered quite a bit of discussion in the comments, one of which was even developed into a counter-post that argued Quora’s superiority in identifying intent over search engines. To round off the impromptu series, we’ve asked Shannon Bain to explain why it isn’t about Quora’s value or lack thereof. Below he explains that there’s a design tension at the heart of all this discussion about the Q&A platform we love to love and hate in equal measure.

    *** *** ***
    Author: Shannon Bain, Principal Designer at XING AG, Hamburg, Germany

    Source: Quora.com

    Quora is still getting a lot of press, both positive and negative, much of it in the form of a debate about its value. Is Quora a good, valuable information service or is it simply a platform for SV self-aggrandizement? As far as I’m concerned, we’ll never get an answer to this question (mainly because it’s actually both). What we should be looking at instead is what the negative reactions tell us about the dangers of designing for social content creation on a platform that’s primarily positioned as a knowledge resource.

    Quora is officially “a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it”. So it’s a Q&A platform, but a fundamentally social one. This puts Quora in a tricky position because there’s an underlying tension between the product’s official proposition and the activity it must “afford” through its design to be a successful social product.

    Quora’s Q&A focus primes knowledge-sharing expectations in users. But a reality of social functionality design is that you must always “afford” user display: give users the domain-appropriate means to show-off, shine, look good, whatever. Display is a powerful and perfectly valid motivator of social activity, even if we like to pretend it’s not. In this case, it incentivizes good questions and smart answers. And since Quora is effectively a community talking to itself (it’s by us pros, for us pros), there’s no way to avoid display even if you (foolishly) wanted to.

    So here’s the tension: when we’re primed with strong knowledge-sharing expectations, but are faced with brazen self-promotion instead, we get annoyed–– even when it results in good content and drives a lot of our own activity. The product’s official, expectation-priming proposition is so clearly about altruistic knowledge-sharing, we can’t help but feel weird about the selfish display activity necessarily afforded by the platform.

    To understand why, we need to look at the product’s framing, the norms in play, and users’ perceived motivations. A product’s frame is the big interaction type that structures it, guides design and primes user expectations. For Quora, it’s a Question & Answer frame. One way frames work is by embedding norms, the informal rules and conventions coordinating and smoothing our daily activities and interactions. When you hear about a Q&A platform, it’s partially your grasp of the frame’s norms that give you that immediate, high-level understanding of what’s supposed to happen. There are at least two roles (Questioner and Answerer) whose interactions are temporally structured (Qs before As) and whose performances can be judged as appropriate or inappropriate (e.g. did the Answerer actually address the question).

    It’s the last bit that’s interesting here. Norms can provide the means of evaluating performance appropriateness. But they often say more than just what behavior is appropriate or inappropriate. They can also say what motivations are appropriate and, more importantly in this case, inappropriate. They determine the frame’s legitimate behaviors and motivations. For us, the interesting Q&A performance norms are about knowledge sharing, and, specifically, the inappropriateness of knowledge flaunting.

    But on a platform essentially dependent on user effort, display is a powerful incentive you can’t ignore. It’s also unavoidable in the product’s strategic “by us, for us” positioning. So, the product necessarily affords transgression of the official Q&A frame’s “no flaunting” norm.

    Elsewhere, I’ve argued that in addition to display there are two other big reasons people use social functionality: knowledge and connection. If you think of these as defining a space within which a piece of social functionality can be plotted according to how it mixes the elements, you can visually represent the mismatch between Quora’s “explicit” position and it’s “afforded” position.

    Notice I’ve also included the “enforced” position. This represents the backlash apparently being enacted by some members against transgressions of the no-flaunting norm. My impression is that it’s even stricter and less display-lenient than the official position.

    I can think of three approaches to mitigating the mismatch:

    • Shift official positioning… bad idea.
    • Monitor and enforce an officially “elevated” layer of user-admins. This is probably too Wikipedia-like and counter the communitarian, party-line rhetoric of SV and Quora.
    • Structurally and functionally foster the definition and communication of member-negotiated, product-specific norms for appropriate display on Quora.

    The last one gets my vote. Display is necessary for Quora to succeed and is going to happen no matter what. Indeed, as the backlash suggests, product-specific norms for legitimate display are already being negotiated. Why not improve the tools for negotiating, communicating, and enforcing legitimate means of display. For example, beyond the current sanctioning (voting) and elevation of “quality” performances, consider a menu of user-applied content tags – e.g. “flaunting”, “advertisement”, etc. Or socially reward users that review and rehabilitate tagged content, possibly even elevating them via a light status system. There are a lot of design possibilities in this direction. And though there’s a real potential for gamesmanship, it’s still  my favorite option. It’s not about iron hand enforcement of official rules. It’s about giving users the tools to define, enforce and communicate what they collectively decide are the normative bounds of performance on the platform.

  • Top 10 links from the last 7 days: 27th January 2011

    27th January 11

    Posted by Saneel Radia

    Posted in BBH Labs

    If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you know that we send out a weekly email to the BBH staff with 10 links we like every week. We look for things that are provocative, challenging, useful, or just plain interesting. When we feel really good about the list, we post it to the blog. Here’s the list from the last 7 days. Feel free to let us know what we’re missing. The list is strongly influenced by what we tweet. Or if following us is too big a commitment, feel free to get our links via trunk.ly.

    Source: Sensimed

    Next-gen iPads & iPhones can be your payment system for things in the real world. Apple’s place in our lives may be on the verge of changing dramatically.

    Smart contact-lenses with heads-up LED iris displays. Welcome to the world of augmented vision.

    Former black Sheep Ben Malbon went to Tokyo on business and made this fantastic instagram album of his trip.

    “We’re so eager to describe the web in utopian or dystopian terms.” NYT’s review of Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together book.

    Social Media Week is a global event from 2/7 – 2/11 with a number of incredible, free events worth attending.

    A second worthy bit (& piece) from the Malbon family. Tim Malbon of Made by Many rants on participation requests from brands (read the comments too).

    BMW is making films again, but this time they’re documentaries about mobility. They had us at ‘jet packs.’

    A collection of brilliant quotes from startups that deliver incredible wisdom in just a few characters.

    We loved (and almost solved) this visual puzzle of 20 things that happened on the Internet in 2010.

    TED launches TEDBooks & hot off the press, @brainpicker takes a look at the launch proposition and first titles.

  • Quora’s pursuit of the holy grail: intent (a counter-view)

    24th January 11

    Posted by Saneel Radia

    Posted in Rants, Search

    We recently posted a rant about Quora that generated a lot of conversation. One of the comments was by Leslie Barry, the founder of Iphso. Leslie made the intriguing argument that Quora actually gets closer to question-and-answer nirvana than any other service: identifying intent. Here’s his explanation of what we’re just not getting. We couldn’t be happier to hear his perspective and would like to thank him for generously agreeing to guest post.

    *** *** ***

    Author: Leslie Barry (@LeslieCBarry), Founder of Iphso

    What is intent?

    According to The Search by John Battelle, the holy grail of search is to interpret the user’s intent and direct them seamlessly to the content, or ideally, provide the answer directly.

    If we assume that intent is not WHAT I’m asking, but WHY I’m asking it, then I believe that Quora is closer to solving the intent of search.

    So how does Quora get us closer to it?

    Quora’s approach is to get the best qualified people (through credentials or experience) to create some rules (boring to some, but necessary to prevent chaos – even Wikileaks has rules), then leverages the serendipity effect to overcome the constraints of similar services, like LinkedIn, to refine the best questions to elicit the best answer.

    What makes Quora unique is that it uses serendipity more effectively than other services.

    What is the ‘serendipity effect’?

    Wikipedia defines serendipity as ‘a propensity for making fortunate discoveries while looking for something unrelated.’

    An example is the real-world benefit I’ve experienced from social media, specifically Twitter, where I meet useful people that I would never know existed without a serendipitous network – i.e., people that I didn’t know I needed to know.

    Quora is leveraging this extremely well: connecting the right ‘people I didn’t know I needed to know’ to clarify intent of the question, and as a result, shortening the path to the answer.

    Intent is only relevant past a certain threshold of question. Something as simple as ‘What is the capital of Maine?’ is clearly better answered via Google. No rocket-science behind the intent there, but asking something slightly more complex and ambiguous like ‘How do you consume news? Has this changed in recent years?’ presents a greater challenge. When you Google it, Google assumes:

    • The question is correct
    • Keyword/location/context matching is adequate

    So here is what Google thinks the answer is:

    …and then Bing:

    They both completely missed the point without the Quora results!

    Conversely, this is what Quora’s users think the answer is:

    Clearly, Quora is more efficient at interpreting intent.

    This is because Quora doesn’t assume the question is correct. Instead it provides the ability to ask a question and have it clarified and modified wiki-style to help shape and tease out my intent. Often as a user, I’m clear on my intent, but am not the subject matter expert and therefore unclear on how to frame the question. The iterative, near-time editing of the question helps solve this issue. Also, Quora doesn’t focus on keyword/location/context matching like a mind-less search engine. Quora’s process of refining the question by subject matter experts eliminates the extra steps of sifting through multiple, non contextual answers.

    And yes, there are many planted questions (Google Link-bait pages, anyone?, LinkedIn self-promotion?, mindless waffle on Yahoo Answers?), and self-promotion, but so what?

    All I care about is the quicker path from question to most valuable answer that addresses ‘what I meant’, not necessarily what I asked. My intent.

    Why can’t Google or Bing use other people’s answers to opinion-type questions to decide the most relevant options to serve you? I think this is because of their strong focus on the search algorithm, which values content over context and popularity over intent. Also, Google is one-way traffic, without an iterative, refining feedback loop; we have to stumble blindly along hoping for one or two interesting search results out of ten or twenty.

    As a result, it’s Quora, not a traditionally defined search engine, that’s helping us take a step towards the holy grail of intent.

    It’s not perfect, but it’s challenging our approaches and thinking about teasing out intent from users. Maybe Google indexes them and learns from them? Once again, it doesn’t matter – we will have taken a huge leap from accepting that indexing and search is better than curated, considered, intelligent answers.

  • Collaboration: blurring consumption & production

    18th January 11

    Posted by Saneel Radia

    Posted in collaboration, People

    A few weeks ago, we posted about what collaborative consumption means for marketers. We found it interesting that the focus on collaboration for most brands tended toward production (innovation, development, etc), but that there wasn’t much noise about the consequence of people collaborating to consume a brand’s products. As is the case often, one of the comments was more insightful than the post. It raised the point that collaboration in consumption actually yields production innovation. Thus, we asked the commenter– Shaun Abrahamson, CEO of Mutopo Colaboratorie– to elaborate.

    ***                                            ***                                             ***

    Author: Shaun Abrahamson (@shaunabe), CEO, Mutopo Colaboratorie

    As a guest poster, some additional disclosure is required because my LinkedIn profile is incomplete. I’d like to add:

    + reviewer at Amazon
    + gas refiller at Zipcar
    + traffic data provider at Google Maps
    + plug-in tester at WordPress
    + opinion offerer at Jovoto
    + classifieds editor at Craigslist
    + A/B headline tester at the Huffingtonpost
    + music popularity statistics reporter at Apple
    + idea spreader at Kickstarter

    I think most LinkedIn profiles have similar omissions. But that is only part of the problem, because I don’t just do work for organizations, but also for friends and family.

    So why it is so important to know who I “work” for or with?

    Of people, value creation, costs and revenues
    All organizations incur costs to make and communicate – to create, design, develop, produce and distribute products or provide services; to generate awareness, evaluation and trials to generate revenues. Of course many of the costs in doing this relate to things like media buying, IT infrastructure, raw materials, rents and the like, but depending on the business a very large percentage of the costs come directly from paying people (i.e., salaries for ALL the jobs to make the organization function).

    So what happens if one of your competitors figures out a way to get some of their work done more cheaply? Fewer people, lower salaries – off shoring and outsourcing over the last 20 years has fundamentally changed developing and developed economies.

    Or, what happens when your competitors are able to attract better talent?

    Most labour conversations tend to focus on full time employment, but there is another important workforce – they are doing the types of tasks we don’t disclose on our LinkedIn profiles. And they are not just working for organizations as we tend to think of them, but for the benefit of their peers.

    Paid vs. earned vs. owned business activities
    Recently Rishad Tobaccowala described among other trends for 2011, paid vs. earned vs. owned media. I’d like to steal this idea and expand it to paid vs. earned vs. owned business activities. Not as catchy, but I’ll keep the explanation short.

    I believe that some of today’s most successful organizations are figuring out how to earn “business activities” that their competitors still pay for. It’s more visible in part because it has become easier to help people help you. Amazon sells more because so many of us choose to write elegant reviews there and Lego benefits from a relentless flood of new product ideas from their community. Zipcar has us refilling gas tanks in the name of sharing and the Huffington Post generates more pageviews when they learn what we like by observing our choices. Groupon gets us to band together into temporary “big organizations”, so we can get discounts previously only available to real big organizations.

    The fundamental change in this collaborative model is that business can create value by “earning” our effort. If you’re looking for inspiration for all the ways in which people can add value, I like the business model canvas or board of innovation (their templates were used to create the diagram above). More specifically, these visual business model tools can be used to quickly highlight the number of ways in which consumers can also be producers, or customers can also be suppliers.

    Beyond roles, these visuals also help outline the different value exchanges: from money and fame to reputation and experiences. The diagram at the start of the post was my attempt to describe the various value exchanges happening around this guest post. It is far from complete, but I hope it shows how “customers” also show up as “suppliers” in exchange for a variety of non-financial currencies. Organizations have many new ways to redefine their relationships with the people formerly known as customers (apologies to Jay Rosen).

    Why this type collaboration matters to marketers
    MIT Center for Collective Intelligence does a great job breaking collaboration down into its DNA – the who, what, why, where and how of collaboration. In Mutopo’s experience on projects like betacup and Life Edited, some of the hard questions have been:

    + why will people participate?
    + what are the right activites and outcomes to focus on?
    + what expertise is required?
    + what can organizations offer in return?
    + how do we quality control?

    I don’t know that this is altogether new for marketers (or for markets). We’ve always had to build teams and find talent, but the scale has changed. Some activities will involve large numbers of people accomplishing tasking in a few minutes or in a few weeks. It will mean much more time evaluating what new outcomes we want, who we want to work with, what they want, what they can do, what we can give them and evaluating how they are doing.

    Finding talent may feel like human resources’ responsibility, but this is a critical role for marketing. Not only because it can touch current or prospective customers, but because it is another way to create value for the organization beyond driving sales through a funnel. And these collaborations can build on exactly the relationships brands aspire to build anyway. Now they have the additional benefit of greatly expanding the reasons for conversation, as well as the types of conversations we can have. After all, it’s quite engaging to discuss what we can accomplish together.

  • The answer to this Quora? No.

    10th January 11

    Posted by Saneel Radia

    Posted in Rants

    The question-and-answer site Quora is a big deal. It has some powerful supporters, with early content posted by a diverse group of digerati from Steve Case to Robert Scoble. It’s the talk of the media (see Google Trend of the word Quora).  There are weekly articles on how Quora will be bigger than Twitter.

    So, I guess it was inevitable that I’d hate it. To clarify, it’s not that I don’t like Quora. It’s that I hate it and want it wiped off the face of the earth. In a missionary effort to reach those few that are yet to form an opinion on this site equivalent of an Uwe Boll movie, I offer the following 3 reasons to resist boarding this bandwagon.

    It’s spam.

    This site diabolically infects those with the largest spam potential. I guess when a site is launched by the former head of Facebook Connect, it’s inevitable. By launching after Facebook established critical mass and Twitter became a big deal, Quora made a splash in the saturated question-and-answer site category. So, giving people the opportunity to be in the spotlight with their answer to an already-answered question is an ingenious way to drive audience and usage by appealing to ego. And I don’t even mind ego-stroking. I just don’t want to be repeatedly spammed across my various feeds as people whose content I otherwise love and trust fall victim to name-in-lights syndrome. Then again, if I could convince people I invented tape, it might be worth it….

    There are dozens of Quoras about what Quora is.

    OK, so maybe #Twitter was a trending topic on Twitter the first 6 months. But those conversations were focused primarily on usage and innovation with the platform. The Quora self-referential conversations are literally people scratching their heads looking for value. There’s no better sign that the emperor has no clothes people. But until we admit it, we’ll just keep tweeting how awesome he looks in that special toga (author’s note: this has nothing to do with how awesome I think the hashtag #emperorsclothes would be, promise).

    Quora is attempting to differentiate itself via answer quality.

    This is defended through its use of Facebook Connect (real people!) and an interest graph (curated topics!). Here’s the thing about quality: it’s inversely related to scale on the web. Generally, users or an algorithm are required to remove the noise. Last I looked, countless services already do this. They go by ticker symbols like GOOG, have David Fincher movies made about them, or add a new user every second (most of whom request a professional recommendation after a single meeting together).

    So, let’s sit this Quora thing out. We were able to resist Google Wave and Ping. Let’s make it three in a row that we tried and let pass quietly. This isn’t to say I don’t respect the effort or experimentation of any company trying something new (Google & Apple are incredible at innovation investment). In Quora’s case, I just think if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it via my newsfeed.

    Now world, if you’re not on board, pretty please give me a heads-up that I’m taking on a lost cause.

    Then I can start a new Quora-related Quora: “How can I get a job at Quora?”

    {Update: I’ve agreed to write a follow-up post to either eat my words or discuss what I got right after some, ahem, encouragement from readers. So keep an eye out!}

    {Update #2: We asked Leslie Barry to elaborate on his comment below and he’s posted a rebuttal, explaining the unique value of Quora I’ve neglected in the post above.}

  • What Collaborative Consumption Means For Marketers

    28th December 10

    Posted by Saneel Radia

    Posted in collaboration

    Source: "What's Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption," Botsman & Rogers

    I recently watched Rachel Botsman’s TEDxSydney talk on collaborative consumption (below) and realized how little most marketers are thinking about the impact of crowds on the future of consumption. Instead, they’re focused on the impact of crowds on production (crowdsourcing! co-creation! predictive markets!).

    For an in-depth overview of the landscape as Rachel defines it, I recommend her guest post on the Swiss Miss blog (or her book). In the interim, here are her three systems, which she uses as a framework for collaborative consumption:

    1. Product Service Systems: Pay for the benefit, not the product (think paying for the hole, not the power drill that makes it)

    Example: ZipCar

    2. Redistribution Markets: Exchanges that move used goods to where there’s new need (think the stretching of product life cycles for things like DVD’s)

    Example: SwapTreasures

    3. Collaborative Lifestyles: People with similar interests band together (think co-working)

    Example: AirB&B

    If you’re in the business of selling goods or services, you should likely spend at least some time thinking about the consequences of such a trend. The following are some initial thoughts on what marketers may want to consider in a world of collaborative consumption. We’d love it to be the beginning of a dialogue on the matter, so please feel free to comment or email us with your thoughts.

    Focus less on “influence” and more on “reputation.”

    Marketers are obsessed with influencers in the hope they’ll help others make purchase decisions. Yet, if more people are doing business with each other, it’s the commercial reputation of a stranger, not their “influence” that becomes incredibly important. Whether marketers like it or not, these sellers are a part of the product experience (think about that bad online purchase experience you had and the impact on the oblivious product company). Perhaps then they should account for those in their target audience that are likely to be the foundation of the secondary market of their products. It may just open up an entirely new branch of propagation planning (“plan not just for those that buy your products, but for those that will eventually buy your products from them”). The economics just got trickier, but finding a way to make money in secondary markets will be essential, and the best way to create demand is to make sure those re-selling your product are representative of the brand.

    Squeeze more dollars out of early adopters

    The true value of early adopters is always hard to determine for a brand. However, as collaborative consumption takes off, they’ll become more important across a range of product categories. In those instances that marketers simply cannot monetize re-sale markets (what brands can feasibly make money from people buying each other’s used goods on Craigslist?), they’ll have to find a way to sell more to the same people, even when those people aren’t brand loyal. Those that buy products upon release may need to be catered to in unprecedented ways. Brands could feasibly help them re-sell, conceding the cannibalization such an effort could have on mass audience sales. In fact, it may be in some brand’s best interest to speed up the cycle between sales to an elite few. It’s not dissimilar to how content publishers think about participation platforms and those very elite community members that are incredibly valuable.

    Help people loan to help yourself sell

    As strangers loan goods to one another, they’re may be an opportunity for brands to differentiate themselves in that regard. Imagine apps that work concurrently with products to help you monetize them when you loan them out. If I loaned my car to strangers for money, I’d prefer one that helps me monitor how much gas that stranger actually cost me in today’s dollars. Or if I lent expensive products like technology, I’d pay a bit more for those that could be located via GPS like the MobileMe “Find My iPhone” feature to deter theft. Such features would be an investment because they would help me monetize my product purchase via collaborative consumption channels, and help such products pay for themselves.

    Become an active participant in passion areas

    We’ve been discussing how brands need to embrace social media flings, in which they have brief but meaningful relationships with consumers. Brands can bond with people over a shared passion (if the brand can credibly contribute to the dialogue). Rachel’s “collaborative lifestyles” system is full of potential for such flings. If a site like Landshare connects growers with those who have land, the entire community feels ripe (sorry, couldn’t help it) for relevant brands to play a role. Imagine a company like DeWit gardening tools facilitating connections in such a community. Not only does that potentially grow business (ok, I’ll stop), but it also offers a “boring” product category a chance to be human and engage people on a topic they’re passionate about. Social media flings aren’t just for the Red Bulls and Nikes of the world. They can happen in small, but highly passionate communities—even if those communities are circumventing buying more of the brand’s product by sharing. Regardless of flings, passionate communities are doors to social engagement of any kind for a brand, and collaborative consumption may just be a master key.

    We’re huge believers in collaboration (it’s perhaps the future of agency business). If consumers are going to collaborate anyway, the bigger impact of crowds on marketer business may be in how products are bought and used, rather than how they’re made or developed (or the growing space in between led by Groupon). Given how many brands are struggling to benefit from crowds, the fact that consumers have taken matters into their own hands (of course) may be a windfall. The economics of how brands make money will certainly become more complicated, but collaborative consumption actually makes things simpler for marketers on some levels. They can stop dealing with crowd dynamics in the production process and instead focus on understanding how crowds change what they know quite well: how they’re products are actually used and valued.

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