The headline for this post could easily have been any of the following:
“Stop all the lying you marketing bastards” OR
“Happy birthday to the sharing economy now 200,000 years old” OR
“Change hands please and describe your business accurately”
As you all know, we marketers love our buzzwords. The “sharing economy” is one of the most popular from recent times. It’s used in seminars, in articles by “thought leaders” and anywhere someone out of their depth is trying to make an impression.
To set the scene, let’s briefly review the definition of “sharing”
sharing = “use, occupy or enjoy (something) jointly with another or other”
sharing = “give a portion of (something) to another or others”
There is no definition of sharing in any dictionary on the planet that says sharing involves a commercial transaction, where one party charges another party for services.
The sharing economy is one of the oldest on the planet. It’s been around since the arrival of humans. I suspect cavemen (and cavewomen) shared their caves and food with people other than their family. Maybe even passed a rock among themselves to use as a tool?
All of us have shared things throughout our lives and will until we die – food, drinks, seats, newspapers, spare beds, car pooling, stationery, lawn mowers, chores and much more.
At no time in this “sharing process” do we ask for payment. The reason is simple. You cannot call it sharing if you charge for the service. Because by definition, it’s not sharing, it’s a commercial transaction. You are conducting business if you charge for services – you are not sharing.
So please, all you marketing wannabes, just tell the truth.
A Bed & Breakfast (BnB) service is a commercial business, so just putting the word “Air” in front of it doesn’t suddenly make the service free, in terms of sharing.
Airbnb is a room booking service. Uber is a taxi booking service. And both companies do their damnedest to avoid paying tax in any of the countries in which they operate, as do most of the people who deliver their services.
Airbnb actively advertises on radio for pensioners to supplement their pensions by becoming an “Airbnb host”. It offers no advice to the poor pensioners on how the extra income will affect their pensions. They may lose their pensions by becoming a host. That’s not much of a sharing, nor caring, way to do business.
Meanwhile, Uber is losing $Billions annually and is plagued by all sorts of management problems and legal action. And when you read its business strategy, (it’s not a sharing strategy) the future is about driverless cars, so where’s that leave current drivers funding its “growth”? I suppose the reason is, Uber’s sharing model, sorry I meant business model, relies on financial transactions, rather than sharing, for its survival.
So given there is absolutely no sharing involved in the fake sharing economy, maybe a correct name for this new service category could be “the make a quick buck while avoiding tax economy“?
It’s certainly more accurate. And it’s not teaching our children that lying is an acceptable business practice, so it’s much more ethical.
Have to go now. I can hear my bride calling. I think she wants to share my wallet. So I guess there is payment involved in sharing after all…