|Dear Brands, I just got disrupted.
I willingly let a stranger drive off in my car, and I found it unnerving.
Last week, I wrote a heartfelt letter to you that our relationship has changed. I shared that I don’t want to breakup, but I want an open relationship. I don’t want to buy products, I want to rent, borrow, share, or swap products. The world has changed, and with it, our relationship.
I know that it’s uncomfortable to hear that customers are now buying your products once, then sharing many times with each other, as your revenues will be decreased. This movement, called the Collaborative Economy (see all my posts on this topic) is on the rise, so I decided to go through the experiment, so I could feel what you’re going through.
I put my own family assets at risk to feel disrupted.
I put our cherished family car up for rental on RelayRide, a site that allows people to share their care with neighbors, rather than purchase. As the first to own this car, I have an attachment to it, and have taken rather good care of it for many years. Saturday morning, a young Duke student picked it up from me for the weekend. I didn’t know who he was, nor do we have any shared contacts. While RelayRide promised me they screen renters and provide insurance, I couldn’t but help see a piece of me go as he drove off.
It felt unnerving on many levels.
For one, I allowed a complete stranger to take my asset, I questioned: what’s he doing with it, will it come back in the same condition, what about liabilities such as accidents, traffic or unaccounted bridge tolls? Secondly, I was unnerved because my training to be a good capitalist in business school didn’t train me for these new models. Thirdly, it concerns of what my current insurance company would think. Fourthly, it’s unnerving because most of our clients at the company that I own serves brands (aka, I make money from brands).
The good news is, everything was just fine.
This morning, I woke up, and the car was left as planned on the curb and keys were left in the mail slot and I’m now $50 richer. But what did I learn? This new collaborative economy requires trust. The trust to let go, trust in the startups that you may partner with, and that most people are good. This is just the start, to take this experience further, I’m renting the car out for weeks, and also for two months starting in July.
Now back to you brands, while I chose to be self-disrupted, for many brands you don’t get the choice. This disruption is among us, there are over 200 startups that empower consumers to buy once –and share many times without buying again. Some of you will be adopt this trend and change your business model –some of you will not, and risk disruption. In both scenarios you will be unnerved, just as I was.
The collaborative economy is unnerving, but we will go it together.