One of the most exciting aspects to social media is the prospect of facilitating real collaboration between brands and their consumers. One of the agencies at the forefront of the crowdsourcing move (some would argue too much) is Victors and Spoils so I was interested to see a couple of blog posts from one of the “big brains” at V&S outlining a couple of their processes:
1. Social Media Engagement
This is basically collaboration 101; brands engaging with people in online conversations. Think of Old Spice, Best BuyTwelpforce and Strip To Your SmartWool.
These are brands that tap into people’s collective brainpower and invite them to submit ideas that deliver against a setof rules – a brief. Think of Pepsi Max & Doritos Crash the Superbowl or Virgin America’s Toronto Provocateur.
Co-creation involves working on new product and service ideas together with the customers who are going to buy them. An obvious example is My Starbuck, but I’m also really struck by Nike 6.0 ID Nation StyleLab, which effectively turns Nike ID’s original mass customization (people designing their own shoe) into co-creation (people being ableto buy shoes that other people designed).
4. Collaborative Consumption
With crowdsourcing and co-creation people help brands produce better products. But the other side of the coin, collaborative consumption, is also getting more popular, from car-sharing (Zip Car, Greenwheels) and bike-sharing (Vélib, B-Cycle) to group buying power (Groupon,Walmart CrowdSaver).
5. Collaborative System
Finally, new business models are emerging that place collaboration at their core. The brand is shaped by an ecosystem of participants. Successful recent examples are Threadless, AirBnB and American Express OPEN.
Many brands are jumping on the collaborative bandwagon with social media initiatives or creative competitions. For instance, 3M Submit Your Idea or Nokia Tune Remake. But there’s no collaborative relationship if people don’t know about the Empowerment tools, or don’t care about them. These brands have started their collaborative journey; next step is to either increase relevance of their tools or to better promote them.
These are brands that people want to collaborate with, but the brands don’t yet offer the tools to do so – at the risk of losing opportunity or goodwill. It’s not a bad position to start from; next step is to start developing collaborative tools and put people’s energy to use. Harley-Davidson and DC Shoes are great examples here.
In this case there’s hardly an existing relationship; both Empowerment and Common Ground are at a low level. This can be the case with existing brands that are out of touch or with entirely new brands and startups. Next step for existing brands is to become genuinely interested in what people are passionate about – otherwise they may soon become irrelevant. New brands and startups have the opportunity to build a brand from scratch and work with consumers to figure out what the brand will become, simultaneously building Empowerment and Common Ground. Brikki.com (crowdsourced children’s stories) is an example of a completely new idea that has the potential to grow with its consumers from day 1. AirBnB is an example of a startup that went this route already. By involving consumers early on AirBnB was pushed beyond what the founders initially envisioned the brand to be, with an active community as a result.
There are many possible scenario’s here, with the most iconic relationship type being the collaborative system where reciprocity can come from anywhere in the ecosystem. Not many brands have achieved this status yet, but many are well on their way such as Threadless, AirBnB and American Express OPEN. A typical next step for Collaborators is to increase engagement with all people (not just innovators and creators), consumer segments and other stakeholders. Other typical next steps include expanding the collaboration arena (e.g. beyond digital into physical spaces) and turning one-off collaborative initiatives into an integral part of a brand’s product offering and communication.