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11TH March 2011

Angel investing - Business Tricks - Creative problem Solving - Entrepreneur - Mobile - Timely - Uncategorized - Venture Capital

Mad Men, Trust and the Sharing Economy

Trust me... Im in advertising!

I’ve been watching Mad Men lately, marveling at the simplicity of their booming postwar economy and wondering why anyone trusted Don Draper and the products he shilled for. I mean, seriously: he routinely charmed the masses into considering: Cigarettes are good for you, or at least, not so bad. Lucky Strikes! Scotch is fine, after 10am. With Ice. Cutty! Hilton Hotels are just like home. Really.

His brands earned trust by investing heavily in creative campaigns, and delivering them with pounding repetition. Simple as that. Good for Don. Not so good for the public, but the Trust Element managed to move a hell of a lot of merchandise.
Fast-forward fifty years and you have Web 2.0 enabling a new model that Sterling Cooper would never have believed: the Sharing Economy. Things are tight these days, and people are looking to save (or earn) a few extra bucks, so they use the web to purchase things and mobile devices to pinpoint the right service at the right time. These have enough details for strangers to make some rudimentary judgments before committing.
Here’s a few: People are organizing ad-hoc transportation: that’s RideSharing. Small businesses are borrowing nice spaces for meetings and presentations: LiquidSpace. And in a move that would no doubt tick off Conrad Hilton if he were alive…homeowners are renting out their spare bedrooms to total strangers. It’s called Couch Surfing. Add to the list Craigslist & co which traffics in nannies, tutors, babysitters and other one-off goods and services offered by individuals, to individuals.
Despite this growth, the Sharing Economy requires a leap of faith that has kept it on the slow track. It’s due to thoughts like these: Is the guy I am sharing a ride with downtown going to detour us to his remote cabin in Niagara Falls? Is the nice girl we hired as a sitter actually spending her off- hours worshipping goats? Is the person we just handed the keys to the beach house to part of that jewelry theft ring we’ve been reading about? Is the Craigslist guy I’m meeting at the mall to buy my cell phone from really safe? On top of all that, established brands hate this movement. Imagine what Hilton thinks about more people staying at home- even when they travel!
In order to scale further, the Sharing Economy will need to focus on delivering what Don Draper always infused in his brands: trust. Reputation Defender is doing its part to scrub harmful and inaccurate items online. Klout can tell you how influential someone is. I think the trust that comes with people “claiming the reputation they’ve earned” is the catalyst that will supercharge the Sharing Economy. For my part, I’ve been working with an entrepreneur named Xin Chung to develop TrustCloud, where anyone can use the Trust Badge and TrustScoring system to quickly summarize how reliable, honest, punctual, transparent and community-conscious other people are. Mouse over a person’s image and the sum total of all their online actions is zipped into neat scores and badges, not unlike a modern day Eagle Scouts sash. (Makes you think twice about your next Evite RSVP doesn’t it!)
Trust was Don Draper’s secret weapon and he used it brilliantly to move product. When the Sharing Economy gets “trust” right, it too will roar.
For more reading: check out the many ways people are already using the Sharing Economy:

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