They say that out of a crisis comes opportunity. As fossil fuels become a precious commodity, we seek new forms of sustainable energy; as traditional financial business models crash, new more creative ones flourish. Creative and entrepreneurial types often thrive in these downturns and moments of crisis. When money is scarce, creativity is the most valuable commodity. COMMON is Alex Bogusky, Rob Schuhamand John Bielenberg’s answer to what they see as the failing ideology of capitalism. They are not suggesting that we scrap the capitalist model altogether and become communists overnight; on the contrary, they are firm believers in capitalism and it’s ability to empower billions of people out of poverty and into healthy, fulfilling lives. What they are suggesting though is a re-think, a re-thinking of values, morals and ethics within the capitalist system. COMMON is their catalyst.
Described by Bogusky as an open-source medium for social innovation, COMMON aims to harness the collective creativity and knowledge of social entrepreneurs through crowd-sourcing to solve some of the world’s most pressing social problems. Recognizing that ‘something has fundamentally changed in the way we do business’, COMMON aims to inspire ‘a new way of consumerism’. It wants to change what consumers traditionally expect from a brand and empower them to demand more. COMMON’s mission statement is ‘to help individuals understand the choices they have in the everyday choices they make’. So instead of just expecting the lowest price from a brand (the bottom line) consumers should also expect investment in local communities and respectful treatment of the planet (the triple bottom line – people, planet, profit). In return COMMON offers a new set of brand values; transparency instead of secrecy, frugal instead of waseful, smart instead of dumb and business as unusual instead of usual. Many consumers already demand these values from a modern brand and traditional corporations are all rapidly adapting their existing models as they realize the power of consumer trust as an extremely valuable advantage in the marketplace.
COMMON recognizes that the future of business and brands is not competitive advantage, but collaborative advantage. This is why Bogusky and his team have chosen a co-operative business model. As consumers become members of the brand, they become co-owners allowing them to contribute to how the brand is designed, owned and directed. If a consumer comes up with a great idea it will be supported and funded to be outsourced through the COMMON brand. They already have their first outsourced project in the pipeline, the Alabamboo Bike Lab. COMMON plans to run in collaboration with existing brands and initiatives such as TED and OPEN IDEO.
Idealistic, yes. Radical, maybe. But when the current model of business and brands is so clearly in a state of crisis it’s the people who are willing to take risks, ask questions and challenge the status quo who will create initiatives to inform tommorow’s business models. COMMON seems like a huge step towards a model of capitalism that is fairer, more just and respects the voice of the consumer. Is that not what we are after? And with Bogusky being named as Creative Director of the Decade in 2010 and with the COMMON team holding between them a hugely impressive track record in the industry, they’ve definitely got the creative clout to make it a huge success.