How The Sharing Economy Is Fast Changing Advertising

Everyone’s talking about it – TIME said it’s one of ten ideas that will change the world. I strongly agree.

Collaborative consumption, the sharing economy, and communal consumption are all different ways of saying that corporations are no longer in the middle of brands and their customers who love them. Businesses are not only popping up -- they are becoming very popular with consumers and investors. Recently featured on the cover of Forbes, Airbnb is disrupting the hotel industry. Lyft is disrupting the taxicab business. And Wheelz is disrupting the world of car rentals.

For decades, brands have wanted nothing more than word of mouth (WOM) influence -- people talking about their brands with a smile. But now some of them are a little nervous about it. Progressive brands are not. They are embracing social media. As customer-controlled influence takes over, and for many, it’s working out very well.



In the 1980s, brands created and paid for tricky WOM ads, using "regular" people who resemble target customers, talking about their products. The famous Faberge ad -- featuring a not-quite-famous Heather Locklear -- mimicked WOM advertising, promoting communities of friends buying lots of shampoo.

More than 30 years later, when our friends and co-workers use and discuss what they love, others are more likely to try it -- and if it’s true, they stick with it (think Zipcar, Zappos, LuLu Lemon). The difference today is that it’s getting harder for corporations to fool customers, especially with the ease and popularity of social media.

Social media, customer satisfaction, value, coolness -- whatever your brand brings, trust that it will come through and trust that your customers will talk about you.

Let your brand speak for itself. It’s happening anyway -- so why not let go of the existing, expensive, and often ineffective advertising methods, and make it easier for your customers to tout the good news? Think of your customers as ambassadors of your brand and let their personal brand endorsement trigger the influence in their communities.


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