Tag Archives: ideas

What’s Mine is Yours

Review of What’s Mine is Yours – How Collaborative Consumption is Changing the Way We Live, by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers

I need to declare an interest upfront,  in that I know and have enjoyed working with Rachel Botsman, one of the co-authors of this book. Rachel is a graduate of Oxford and Harvard universites has worked for President Clinton and as a successful management consultant. But no bias on my part – this is an interesting, engaging and important book!

What’s Mine is Yours posits that we are at a tipping point in a new way of living – based on sharing, bartering and helping each other out. This is partly driven by rejection on the part of newer generations towards the excesses in consumption of their Baby Boomer parents, partly by a desire to husband our earthly resources better, partly by increasingly straitened economic circumstances for many, and all of this facilitated by technology and new connectedness that we enjoy now through social networking and mobile communications.

The book is written in an involving anecdotal style, using real stories and experiences to bring the concepts alive. Botsman and Rogers have interviewed a number of key entrepreneurs and opinion formers. It sets up the context for collaborative consumption and explains the socio-demographic and psychological forces that have encouraged the desire to share instead of own, to be more “we” and less “me”. There are plentiful examples to demonstrate what collaborative consumption is, how it has arisen and the many forms it takes. Finally the authors explore how this phenomenon will further evolve and its likely long term impact.

I’ve always been a bit of an early adopter, so several of the emerging organisations and companies practising collaborative consumption were already known to me: I’ve rented a van from StreetCar; rented out my own car several times to strangers through Whipcar; I’m in the process of negotiating a house swap in Australia; I’ve acquired  jars for jam-making via Freecycle and given away furniture through Freecycle and Street Bank; I regularly rent DVDs through Lovefilm and have bought and sold on eBay. I’m also a co-founder of a website dedicated to living sustainably and creatively by making and mending things rather than buying and binning. All that may indicate I’m heavily pre-disposed towards the concept of collaborative consumption, but  as someone who has been an Olympic standard conspicuous consumer and big spender in my time, I think it says more that  if people like me are getting into this, then Botsman and Rogers have identifed a very real element of the zeitgeist and we are going to see a lot more examples of collaborative consumption before long.

Not only is it happening: it also makes a lot of sense. To use an example from the book, when doing a spot of DIY we want the hole not the drill (apparently the average usage of an electric drill is 12 minutes in its entire lifetime!). You want to see the film – not collect plastic boxes to sit idle on your shelf. It’s about access not ownership.

But collaborative consumption is about more than accessing ‘things’ – it’s also about sharing and accessing services and skills. Bartering requires a “double coincidence of wants” a lawyer with a leaking tap might normally struggle to find a plumber in need of legal advice but the Internet has dramatically changed that. Apparently there are already around 500 online barter exchanges in the Americas, including Bartercard with more than 75,000 members across nine countries who exchanged over $2 billion of goods and services though its network in 2009.

Obviously a pre-requisite of collaborative consumption is trust. One of the theses Botsman and Rogers put forward is that  to establish trust we will increasingly rely on our personal reputation capital. At first this sent a chill up my spine – another excuse for people to monitor and spy on my activity online? But already we are all subject to credit checks, like it or not, so checks on our reliability and trustworthiness are probably an inevitable consequence and facilitator of collaborative consumption. This is already operating extensively in peer ratings – as done by the self policing system on eBay – but it does also raise a concern that one’s reputation could be blown by a spiteful comment from an individual – as some hoteliers have found with abusers of Trip Advisor. It means we’ll all need to be vigilant and active in developing and protecting our ‘reputational bank accounts’.

This is a very well researched and thought-provoking book, packed full of entertaining examples and written in a very accessible and conversational story-telling style. You can buy it on Amazon What’s Mine Is Yours: How Collaborative Consumption is Changing the Way We Live


Open IDEO – crowd sourced innovation for social good

Applause to IDEO for their new initiative, Open IDEO, which is crowd sourcing innovation for social good.

I’ve long been a fan of Open Innovation and this particular effort looks like an exciting way to get some creative brains thinking about some of the world’s challenges. The way it works is you sign up then you can participate in all or any of the four stages of all or any of their current challenges. Right now there are two – Jamie Oliver asking “How can we raise kids’ awareness of the benefits of fresh food so they can make better choices?” and “How might we increase the availability of affordable learning tools & services for students in the developing world?”

The  stages are :

  1. Inspiration – sharing stimulus – including videos, photos etc and build on other people’s. What exists already that could help with the challenge?
  2. Concepting – sharing your own ideas and building on others
  3. Evaluation – rating and commenting on other people’s ideas
  4. Winning idea

Each participant earns points for each stage and these add up to give you your personal DQ or Design Quotient.

This little video explains how it works.

Introduction to OpenIDEO / OpenIDEO.com from IDEO on Vimeo.

I’m really looking forward to joining in and to seeing the outcomes. The only problem is I may find it so engaging that I never get any other work done!

Check it out >> Open IDEO

New tools for organising information

I’ve been using two new tools in my ongoing battle to simplify and organise all the information in my life.

The first, Flipboard, was only launched this week, so I haven’t given it an extended test drive yest – but so far I’m loving it. It’s for i-pad and, like the Twitter Daily I recently posted about, it’s a way to sort your social media into a more visually friendly format. In other words a look just like a quality print magazine but on your i-pad. Unlike Twitter Daily, Flipboard also turns your Facebook information into a magazine format too, along with any other sources you want to consult. I’m loving it BUT it’s early days and apparently they’ve been massively oversubscribed so new users may experience some delays in setting it up.

What I’m absolutely LOVING is Evernote. I now have this on Mac, PC, i-phone and i-Pad and it syncs across all these using cloud technology. If I’m on a webpage and I want to save it, I just clip a little icon in my Browser and it grabs the URL as a bookmark AND scoops in the whole content including pictures. If I want to jot down an address,  make a  few notes or take a picture I can drop them into  Evernote on my phone and then there they are waiting for me on the computer when I get back to the office.So no matter where I am, I can access things that matter to me and everything syncs immediately. It’s magic!

Within Evernote I now have a series of notebooks, one with work-related material: articles and stimulus, one with background material for a book I am writing, another related to my online business, Make it and Mend it, where I gather stuff I want to follow up on later, and the rest sits in a general notebook – everything from holiday ideas to quickly scribbled notes to remind myself to do things.

Evernote is absolutely free – although there’s a premium version for a small monthly fee. So far the free app is proving perfectly adequate for my needs. Give it a go!


Flipboard for i-Pad

Ford’s conversation with Generation Y

FiestaLineUpAgentsToday Ford was named Brand of the Year by the Society for New Communications Research for “its innovative use of social media to improve the way the company communicates with its stakeholders”. Noteworthy has been the company’s pioneering Fiesta Movement campaign.

I first came across the US Ford Fiesta Movement through Twitter. One of the people I followed when I began tweeting, was in the process of applying to be a Fiesta Agent and got very excited when she was one of the chosen 100. As a Brit, with memories of the old Ford Fiesta as a rather tired model, mainly favoured for supermarket and school runs by the unyummier brand of mummy, I was amazed that someone like her (20 something and very cool) would be so pumped up over being picked to test drive one.

So what is the Fiesta Movement? Ford has been testing the power of social media to “pre-launch” Fiesta in the USA. They’re targeting the car to under 30s, so the logic of exploiting the power of social media is clear. Ford held a beauty parade to find 100 high profile, 20 something, bloggers – over 4000 applied. Each of the 100 chosen bloggers received a car, imported from Europe and modified for the US, all taxed and insured and petrol and parking fees paid for, to use for 6 months, in exchange for undertaking six monthly “missions” in the car and blogging about these.

driver-44-profile_image_originalThe “Agents” have posted photos to Flickr, tweeted their opinions on the car on Twitter, commented on Facebook, uploaded videos to Youtube, shared views on the Fiesta Movement home page – and of course regularly write about their experiences in their own blogs. The bloggers have had a free rein to write and film what they wanted – and they certainly seem to have taken advantage of that! Not all the feedback has been positive – although the vast bulk of it has.

And the results? At the beginning of this month (almost the end of the 6 month run) Ford released these figures:

  • 4.3 million YouTube views so far
  • 500,000+ Flickr views
  • 3 million+ Twitter impressions
  • 50,000 interested potential customers, 97% of whom don’t own a Ford of any type currently.

These social media stats are not earth-shattering in comparison with the gazillions of viral hits achieved overnight by the Susan Boyle debut or the millons of views for Jill and Kevin’s wedding entrance, but for a consumer brand they are pretty impressive. What’s more important though, is the number of registered potential customers and the fact that most of these are new to Ford.

3993465696_059c0667d7The style-leading bloggers have given the Fiesta brand an injection of street cred that moves it far away from the old fashioned image the brand used to have. Having a blogger write about the fuel consumption he’s getting or show the storage capacity with photos of the boot (sorry trunk!) loaded up with gear for a camping weekend, is worth more than any number of glossy brochures or any amount of sale room patter to the target group.

Here’s a quote from one of the agents, Maria D:

“this has got to be one of the most brilliant campaigns ever. It fully engages us as ambassadors without us being hardcore sales people. We are not required to yap about the Fiesta constantly and we can pretty much say whatever we want. The only thing we’re not allowed to do in our videos is shoot something stupid — ie, driving without a seat belt, that sort of thing. Ford took a great risk in putting these cars in our hands.”

They did indeed take a risk. Not least by undertaking all this activity so far in advance of the car’s actual US launch date next year.

Ford appear to take social media seriously. This arm of their marketing effort is headed up by Scott Monty, who came to Ford from Crayon (tagline “Join the conversation”) and is regarded as a leading social marketing expert. (Although as a discipline so much in its infancy, experts don’t exactly have a lengthy track record). Scott has a Twitter following of over 31,000 and persuaded Ford CEO to venture onto Twitter to engage with Ford’s customers. To quote Monty:

“Ford is not interested in advertising on social networks. We’re interested in getting in there and interacting with people.”

Key to the campaign’s success – although recognising the jury is out until the car actually goes on sale – has been Ford’s understanding of the context of social media and ability to create interest in a sympathetic non-salesy manner that becomes part of the conversation rather than interrupting it. I’ll be watching those sales figures.

>> Brand of the Year

>> Fiesta Movement

Burger King’s Whopping Whopper Sacrifice

whoppersacrificeFacebook may have killed off the Whopper Sacrifice in its prime: but not before Burger King’s promotion had seen more than 23,000 people strike off 10 of their friends in exchange for a free Whopper Sandwich token.

The burger chain’s promotion offered a free Whopper in exchange for Facebook members deleting 10 of their friends. The evil twist was that BK then notified the rejected friends that they had been unfriended and by whom, letting the victims know that their erstwhile friend valued them a less than one tenth the price of a burger. Claiming that this was breach of its users’ privacy, Facebook pulled the plug on the promotion after only ten days.

This was a short-lived, vicious but brilliant promotional device that perfectly exploited the nature of social media and the way that its devotees measure their own worth by the size of their friend lists. Its cheeky, memorable if somewhat brutal message made it stand out in a generally poor field, where brands are struggling to get to grips with the challenge of social media. It cost Burger King next to nothing and earned it a lot of valuable notoriety. The brand announced the demise of its offer with the words “In the end your love for the Whopper Sandwich was worth more than 233,906 friendships” and an offer to rejected friends to send an ‘AngryGram’ in the form of a talking Whopper to the person who defriended them. Brutal but perfectly attuned to the target market.

Riding out the recession

snowboardingThe natural instincts of most businesses, is to pull in their horns when recession looms. Just as consumers are abandoning the high street and reveling in frugality, so many businesses look inwards, cut budgets and cut back customer service.

This is a big mistake.

Great companies always outperform their competitors during hard times. They seize the opportunity to grab market share by continuing to invest in their customers, their products and services and keep a long-term focus.

Whilst many companies go to the wall during recessions, history is rich with examples of those that built unassailable gains and rode to greatness in these periods. Some of the world’s most significant inventions and most successful corporations were born during depressions or recessions.  New needs emerge in such times: Health insurance was born out of the US Depression as were stereo recordings, digital computers, Monopoly, sunglasses, ballpoint pens and bubble gum, to name but a few. Messrs Hewlett and Packard got their products rolling from the famous garage in 1939. Despite industry in crisis and companies going under, Fortune magazine, the world’s first and most successful business publication was born at the height of the Great Depression : this was a counter-intuitive and risky venture at the time, but proved an unqualified success.

Continue to invest – your money goes further
During recessions, when everyone else is cutting back on marketing expenditure and research and development efforts, the wisest companies continue to invest in these. They are often able to do so because they managed their businesses prudently during easier times, keeping costs under control and building a valuable war chest.  This makes sense, as during a recession money goes further, as suppliers cut costs, and are ready to make deals. For those with available resources, this can be a great time to get acquisitive. Sadly most firms work the other way round, spending freely in good times and then savagely cutting costs when times get tough.

Lavish time and effort on customers
For those companies or small businesses that haven’t built up a war chest, there are still great opportunities. What they lack in funds they can make up in time and effort, by lavishing attention on customers. This means spending time to listen to them and find out how to serve them better; to get them to collaborate with you in dreaming up new products or solutions; to look for ways to offer them more value, rather than lower prices and to find ways to lock in their loyalty.

Keep on marketing
Advertising and marketing is often the first spending victim of recessionary cost-cutting. It is such an easy budget to slash, but you do so at your peril. Look for ways to use the money more efficiently, to seek out better deals and to try new approaches, but NEVER stop communicating with your target market. If your competitors cut back their spending, rub your hands with glee and see it as a golden opportunity to gain share at their expense. In a normal market, marketing is often a game of ‘tit for tat’ that makes it hard to gain ground and often results in standoff. In recessionary times, you can find yourself on an empty dance floor with the audience’s eyes trained on you alone. Go for it!

Ideas and insights are free!
Whilst money may be tight, creativity comes free, as does spending time understanding your customers’ needs. Time spent now hanging out with customers and consumers, observing them, talking with them and listening to them will yield rich insights about their needs and behaviour that will give a huge edge to your new product and service development efforts and help you hone your advertising messages.

History shows that it is twice as easy to grow share in a recession as in buoyant economic periods. Those firms that succeed in growing market share in this recession are likely to hang on to it, while those that lose it will have a tough and very costly battle to regain ground when things pick up.

Yesterday I read a quote from Marco Pierre White of Hell’s Kitchen:

“I think a recession is the most obvious time to open a restaurant. Number one: in doom and gloom, you’re creating something that’s exciting and fun. Number two: everything is cheap to do. Number three: you get the lion’s share of publicity ‘cos no one else is doing it. So it’s entirely logical to open a restaurant during a recession.”

There are many other businesses that could apply the same philosophy.