Paradoxically to an increasingly individualistic society, we are witnessing the resurgence of collaborative principles. The drive towards sharing, the desire to act collectively and the adoption of horizontal models are changing the way we relate to others, work and think the world.
At a time of constant political crisis, the democratization of information is leading to discredit in centralised institutions. In contrast to traditional vertical organization models, horizontal structures are emerging. Rather than having hierarchies at their core, they rely on collective actions and operate democratically, taking advantage of the experience and unique skills each of its element has to offer.
© Open-source fashion manifesto
The same rule applies to consumer politics. More demanding and in the know, consumers strive for an active role in brand development, they want to be listened to, to be part of the process. This collaboration has proved significant and has found expression at multiple levels: co-creation processes, product customisation, collective funding platforms and open source movements.
Let’s look into these examples.
In an attempt to pursue a closer relationship with their consumers, Burberry has been adopting strategies that encourage them to feel part of the of the brand identity construction process. The first step was taken in 2009, with the ‘Art of the Trench’ campaign, which invited consumers to send the brand a photo of themselves wearing their most iconic item.
© Art of the Trench, Burberry
In just one week they received over 400 000 photos from 191 countries, which translated into a growth of visits to the Burberry website of over 9 million users (in the following 9 months). When they see their photo published, consumers feel they have a voice, that they matter, they feel motivated to continue to invest in their relationship with the brand.
Using 3D modelling technology, the Portuguese brand My Swear allows consumers to customise the colour and material of their tennis shoes, from over 60 possible variations. At a final stage, their products can still be personalised with other elements, such as a symbol or a signature.
© My Swear
Under the same note, Adidas allows for the customisation of several of their tennis shoes with high resolution photographs. Once the model and the size are chosen, consumers can pre-visualise their product in 3D and from a 360º angle, order it online and share their creation in the social media.
Peeble smartwatch is one of the best examples of products that were born from collective funding. When Eric Migicovsky, Pebble’s president, started looking for investors, no one believed his product had any potential. In a last attempt to get financed, he took to Kickstarter and, in only 37 days, was able to raise over 7 million euros. Consumer support made it possible for the brand to sell over 400 000 devices in 2013.
© Peeble Steel
In the last few years, internet growth has changed the way we communicate and the way we think about information, it has taken things to another level. As a result, the proliferation of open-source movements now dictates that, for the sake of common good, knowledge and experience exchange should be promoted and celebrated.
Adafruit Industries, a tutorial platform that promotes discussion forums and provides its users with access to components that allow them to build DIY electronic devices, is a good example of this approach.
The Open-source Fashion Manifesto, published last February by Martijn Van Strien and Vera de Pont, cautions us to be aware that ‘we are entering into a new era of common property. The most successful businesses in the past few years have been services that allow us to share our property with others. Often facilitated by the internet, this created communities that are self-organised and work towards a shared outcome from which we all benefit.”
The key word is ‘engagement’. Brands and companies should stop being sceptical and invest in partnership strategies. If alone we stand strong, together we can be stronger.