Creative collaboration is driving the next evolution of marketing

By Ryan Galloway
The Brief
Marketing is no longer just about big advertising budgets. It’s about who’s got skin in the game. Smart brands are inviting their customers to collaborate, enhancing their own marketing power.


In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed. —Charles Darwin

Last year, I wrote about a product called MYO, an armband that allows users to control devices with gestures. It’s an amazing little gadget with some very big applications, but perhaps more interesting is its collaborative approach to marketing. Thalmic Labs, the company behind MYO, asks independent developers to use it as a platform for their own designs. For every developer that builds an app for MYO, Thalmic Labs gains a partner with skin in the game. And since each partner has his or her own product to sell, Thalmic Labs’ marketing firepower increases exponentially.

By creating an ecosystem of innovation around its brand, Thalmic Labs is following the trail blazed by luminaries like Jeff Bezos and Larry Page. Providing a platform or a service that invites customization and creativity—rather than just consumption—turns users into partners and brand evangelists. Michael Schrage, author of Serious Play, put it best in a recent Harvard Business Review  post: “Successful innovation ecosystems create virtuous cycles of external creativity, which drives internal adaptation. In turn, internal innovation enables and inspires external investment.”

A perfect example of relationship-driven marketing is COMMON, a community of creative and entrepreneurs that bills itself as the “world’s first collaborative brand.” Launched by award-winning creative director and Crispin Porter veteran Alex Bogusky, COMMON seeks to create positive social change through collaborative innovation. COMMON holds pitch events around the world to discover new partners, and dozens of brands are already under its umbrella. Sure, they’re still selling stuff—but they’re doing it in a way that’s driven by relationships, rather than old-fashioned ad spend.

The Takeaway: Relationships are not afterthoughts developed once a product or brand is market-ready. They are the core component that help a concept turn into reality. Give your audiences the ability to collaborate with you, and you will find a deep pool of new business and new product possibilities, along with a built-in marketing strategy.

Ryan Galloway oversees content for The Hired Guns, a digital marketing and talent consulting firm in New York City. He has written for Business Insider and Forbes.com and is a frequent contributor to this blog.
RelSci helps create competitive advantage for organizations through a crucial yet vastly underutilized asset: relationship capital with influential decision makers.

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