Why I think the sharing economy has taken off

I like to watch TED talks when I can and one of the most interesting ones I’ve come across is How Airbnb designs for trust by Joe Gebbia, co-founder of Airbnb. This got me thinking back to the old days (10 or so years ago) when these trust or sharing economy companies were in their infancy. Uber and Airbnb are such huge aspects of the metropolitan lifestyle now that it’s hard to even remember the time without them.

I feel like these companies have been created by millennials for millennials (and maybe everyone else). We, as a generation, have embraced the sharing economy as a way to save or make money, while having better service experiences. That’s the key. Many people in my generation would rather pay $500 for an artisan leather purse at a craft show, where they can meet the artist and hear their story, over paying $500 for a Coach purse at a shiny strip mall store. The sharing economy has really provided us with quality services, products and experiences, which I believe is what has allowed this economic shift to occur. Here I’ll cover my own experiences with 3 sharing economy companies: Airbnb, Rover and Uber.

Airbnb: My favorite of the sharing economy companies is Airbnb because I love traveling, but really love experiencing new places. Airbnb is a platform that connects users with extra space and users that are in need of a place to stay. Honestly, Airbnb is awesome. I know there are always those people that have negative experiences, but so far, I’ve only had great experiences. When I was in Europe this summer, it was definitely eerie to be in a completely different country and essentially show up to someone’s house for a room. However, Airbnb really does take the scariness out of the whole process simply by its design, as the video mentions. It provides a much more immersive experience and unique aspect to travel. Research shows that millennials value experiences over material things. This is true in a sense. This is what explains booms in craft breweries, artisan goods, festivals, local coffee shops and the overall sharing economy. I think that a better explanation is that millennials value quality. I know that I really value quality experiences and products for my money. 

What I love most about Airbnb is that it allows you to experience staying as a local would in the city. We experienced this in multiple cities in Europe and I felt like it truly made our trip. For example, while in Venice, we had this rooftop patio view, two blocks away from the Rialto Bridge. We were in the best location possible. We could even see the gondolas lined up on the canal from our front door. We felt like this view and our location could have only been provided from an Airbnb, where we essentially “came home” to an apartment in the city with actual locals as neighbors. In Dublin, we had a view over the Ha’Penny Bridge on the River Liffey. We were in an apartment complex with young professionals from Dublin, which I thought was awesome. They get to live there and experience this every day; I was, and am, so jealous.

Uber (and Lyft): I’ve used both Uber and Lyft; they’re essentially the same, especially since Uber now offers a tipping feature. Uber and Lyft are ride sharing apps that have definitely overcome the stigma of that stranger danger/hopping into random dudes’ cars thing. The design of the app makes you feel safe by providing ratings of your driver, a picture of them and the knowledge that the app tracks you along your route. Honestly for me and my friends, Uber has become an experience in where we hope we get a fun driver with stories to share about their worst passengers, best rides, etc. We get some really eccentric people as our Uber drivers, which makes sense. You almost have to be a people person (or learn how to be one) to give random people rides all day and night. If you’re not already a user, I definitely recommend. My friends and I have saved countless dollars on parking fees and DD duties over the past few years.

Rover: I’m currently writing this post as I am house sitting for a client. This is my first experience with Rover and it’s going really well! I have friends that have made thousands of dollars through Rover in such a short time and only have good things to say about the company. I even have a friend that didn’t have to pay rent for six months IMG_1946because of a few, long term house-sitting gigs back to back. The beauty behind this company is that pet owners are no longer forced to find boarding for their pets when they are away. It allows users to find reliable people to watch their houses and pets, so that their pets can stay in a familiar environment without risk of potentially harsh kennel environments or diseases. Rover’s design focuses on reviews and qualifications. Your placement in the search results in your area are based upon your responsiveness, ratings and reviews. Your profile shows potential clients your reviews left by others, as well as that you’ve passed a background check and other safety courses provided by the company. Like many, I’m doing Rover as a side gig, as I am on my way to an entry level job salary that probably won’t cover everything I need. The only negative side I’ve seen so far from a sitter perspective is the crazy taxes you have to pay since you’re technically an independent contractor. The plus side is it’s basically like a paid mini vacation and all you have to do is watch cute dogs.

This might sound dumb or cliché, but what is really awesome about these sharing economy companies is that you are forced to meet new people. In an age where we are so “anti-strangers,” it’s fun getting to talk to new people, whether you’re getting a ride from them, watching their dog, putting together their Ikea furniture or staying in their house. I know there are several more I should try, such as ZipCar and TaskRabbit, but I haven’t had a need yet! What have been your experiences or what should I try next?

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Cause marketing: Who’s doing it right from a millennial’s perspective

It’s no big news that cause marketing is in right now. However, companies need to be vigilant about how their cause-marketing-related messages come across to consumers. Growing up around constant advertising, the Millennial generation has been conditioned to ignore and filter out messages from companies, resulting in a bit more cynicism than our predecessors. This cynicism gives us the ability to know if a company actually has good intentions or just wants to stay in the market with a false “do-gooder” appearance. I loved this article from DigiDay, talking about how cause marketing has been a little of “too much of a good thing” recently, or as some call it “causewashing.”

The companies that are correctly using cause marketing (no BS motives detected) are either: 1) essentially the ones that created the movement in the first place or 2) are dedicated to their causes without making it their only marketing strategy. When corporate social responsibility has been built into the core of a company’s brand identity, we’re all about it. The ultimate key to cause marketing is transparency about the cause and what exactly the company is doing it for it. Unfortunately for some, donating a mere 5% of proceeds to an obscure charity isn’t good enough anymore; we want to see real change from a company if they claim to have an impressive CSR policy.

Brands doing it right:

  • LUSH Cosmetics: LUSH is one of my all time favorite cosmetic brands and they are champion cause-marketers. Their charities directly align with their products in such a way that the product is made to work with the cause itself. For example, they are combating and bringing awareness to animal testing and harmful cosmetic ingredients simply by selling their products. While their whole business platform is a cause in itself, they also sell Charity Pots where a percentage of proceeds go to a specific charity.
  • Patagonia: Patagonia is one of the most transparent brands out there and they’re dedicated to their causes without making it their only marketing strategy. Most recently, they created an entire support campaign for Standing Rock, featuring almost no branding at all. This Standing Rock feature was the homepage for days. Patagonia has mastered the cause/product/content marketing balance.
  • Toms: Even with some recent backlash, the Tom’s brand story comes across as genuine and well-intentioned. In my opinion, Toms is one of the top brands that started this recent cause marketing trend in the first place. The Tom’s website incorporates photos of the children they assist on almost every page and the Toms employees giving them away, which is key. Consumers see the Toms brand actively working to help the cause themselves, not just a check sent in the mail. The One-for-One business model and tagline was crucial in the success of this 2006 startup. Consumers feel as though they have personally helped an in-need individual and changed a life by purchasing shoes for themselves.
  • Alex and Ani: Alex and Ani has so many things going right for them. All of their jewelry is eco-conscious, meaning both the materials used and production methods are sustainable. All of their products are made in America, which is a cause in and of itself. They also feature several “Charity By Design” collections, where a portion of the sales are donated to specific charities. Even with the various aspects of an amazing cause-marketing platform, they barely advertise it.
  • KIND: I really like KIND because they have really integrated their brand identity around just the name itself and I love their message. The food is kind for your body and the brand encourages kindness in the world. The Kind Foundation aids those superheroes in local communities that genuinely care about helping other people.

Pro tip: Never post anything like “For every Share, we’ll donate…” I hate this. It sounds like you are withholding money that could be doing the world a lot of good ransom for likes and shares. If you are that desperate for engagement, I would much more respect a company that would post something like, “We have this amount of money and we want to know who our customers want us to give it to! Vote here!” Voting or commenting allows you to reach your audience and fosters engagement, without seeming like you’re withholding money just for attention.

Here’s an infographic from an AdWeek article that I found to really ring true, at least in my opinion.

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March 12, 2017 AdWeek Article by Emma Bazilian

Is sponsored Snapchat Lens marketing becoming the new norm?

Is it just me or has Snapchat marketing been booming the last couple weeks? Every day that I open the app, there’s a new Sponsored Lens to use. They’ve been marketing everything from new movies to cereal lately and I love it. As a marketing student, it’s interesting to get on and see which brands are trying to reach my demographic. Snapchat marketing is a smart, effective way to reach consumers from 10 year olds to 30 years old. Many consumers in this age range are using Snapchat as a main source of communication, as well as entertainment. I wouldn’t say that all of these Lenses are going to make me go out and buy their products immediately, but it’s great for overall brand awareness.

Some critics feel as though Snapchat is not an effective marketing strategy for products, like consumer goods. I agree that Snapchat is not the place for products like consumer goods IF the company’s goal is to actually sell me the actual product. It improves my opinion of the brand, but not much else. For example, last week on National Coffee Day, I loved Starbucks’ mermaid Lens. They weren’t offering any deals like Dunkin’ Donuts was because let’s be honest, they don’t need to. However, Starbucks was still able to participate in the “holiday” through Snapchat and increase overall brand awareness.

I do think that for products such as movies, it is a very smart move to use Snapchat to try to directly sell me a movie ticket. I think Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children did a great job in their movie promotion. The various filters they created allowed me to generate interest in the product itself. Why does the one with the hat disappear? What does the creepy, razor sharp teeth/mouth for eyes mean?

My advice to brands interested in marketing with Snapchat? The key to Snapchat is making the right Lens (or filter) for your brand or product that engages the consumer. Know ahead of time what you want it to accomplish. Do you want to increase brand awareness for a specific demographic or do you want to sell them your product? Now more than ever, it’s important to note that you shouldn’t just do it because everyone else is doing it. It should contribute to your overall marketing goals and how you want to reach your consumers. It’s also important that you give it you 100% or don’t do it at all. When there are some great Lenses out there, it could reflect negatively of yours is boring. Engage the consumer so that they are inclined to continue to be engaged by looking your product up or ask their friends about it.

Here are a few filters from the past week or so that I’ve rated hot, not and room temperature. Excuse my faces. Most of these were taken on my way to class at 8am. I’m not a morning person.
Hot: 

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Lukewarm: 

      
Not:

Sorry, Chevy. Snapchat is not the place to sell me a car; no matter how “fun” you want the car to seem.
BONUS: This one isn’t Sponsored or anything, but I just think it’s hilarious.