August 12th, 2015 | Chris Lloyd

How Brands Work in the Collaborative Economy

Collaborative Economy

An economy built from unused time, space, and money.

Want to go on vacation, but don’t want to pay outrageous hotel rates in large cities? Airbnb offers a room – or maybe a houseboat or boot house – by enabling people to rent out extra space in their homes for a nightly fee. Whatever you fancy, there’s something for you in the collaborative economy. Colossal sharing-based brands like Airbnb, Etsy, and Uber prompt everyday people to use their time, space, or even money to fill economic voids.

Many cooperative ventures formed in the wake of the Great Recession; people earned money in their abundance of spare time due to high levels of unemployment. As the recession faded, sharing companies advanced. People continued their frugality and enjoyed the savings from using collaborative services. Consequently, many traditional brands struggle to get involved in an economy where purchasing new things is no longer the accepted norm.

Traditional brands are collaborating with the collaborative economy.

As this economy continues its growth trajectory, traditional B2C brands — like Nordstrom and Chevy — have started worrying about their place in a community-centric society. Their relevance is dwindling as society’s values shift to thrifty, environmentally conscious finds, rather than perpetually wasteful trends. To battle the increasingly communal world, traditional brands are coming up with a variety of perceived solutions to staying relevant. Most of these solutions don’t discard the collaborative economy, but rather, embrace it.

Business and nonprofits utilized this economy to promote growth in their organizations. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) paired up with Uber over the Fourth of July weekend to offer partygoers a free safe ride home. This not only provided exposure for MADD’s cause, but also improved public relations for Uber.

Hassett Ace Hardware in San Francisco hosts a community “Repair Café” allowing customers to obtain repairs for free from community members, while Ace provides tools and equipment. This application of the sharing economy flows into their market position as a neighborly hardware store

Rather than improving PR, some established brands took a stand within the collaborative economy. Patagonia, for example, filled the niche of reselling its traditionally expensive clothing by building a resale marketplace on eBay. The brand’s support of eBay resale simultaneously demonstrates the durability of its products and maintains its positioning as a sustainable brand.

The sharing economy provides increased economic assistance for those who desire similar experiences at lower price points. Traditional brands failed to target this market, allowing new, collaborative brands to build empires.

If your company wants to get involved or is competing against the collaborative economy, we’d love to help you find a partner or find your niche within the market. Send us a note at


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