the age of WE

The Age Of WE Has Only Just Begun

I sat down to write WE-Commerce five years ago, and it was finally published by Penguin in December of 2015. I cannot tell you how rewarding it is today to see how my vision of a world where “we would do it for the benefit of the many over the few” has actually come to fruition. When I first started to think about the “world of we” that we are living in today, Airbnb was new, and the sharing economy was simply thought of as a wunderkind economic engine focused on democratizing the use of things like luxury lodging and car service globally.

That provincial notion changed overnight after PwC cited it as an economic niche that would potentially drive $335 billion into the global economy by 2025. Now in 2018, it’s hard to imagine a world that isn’t centered on the power of placing the well-being of the collective we over that of the singular me. Illustrative of this idea is a recent profile piece in the New York Times, where David Gelles wrote about the incredible rise of WeWork from a multi-billion-dollar office space provider, to an entity that is projected to be worth hundreds of billions in the not too distant future. The catalyst for this mind-boggling growth: the company’s mission of instilling a sense of the value of purposeful community into society at large-way beyond the walls of just the workplace. WeWork CEO Adam Neumann summated it similarly to how I did in WE-Commerce, stating that we are heading toward a world “where a mindset of we versus me” will most definitely shape our future.

This phenomenon of doing it for the many vs. the few has led us to the much-heralded age of purpose we are living in today. Holly Branson (yes THAT Branson), like Adam, touches on many of these new ideals in her new book WEconomy. I took a similar POV in WE-Commerce, where I called for a new era of “profiting with purpose”—one where brands would place benevolence at the heart of all they do, with an eye toward doing what is right, not just what’s convenient.

holly branson Weconomy

Holly perhaps said it best when she noted: “Purpose is the biggest transformation to happen to business since the assembly line,” and I couldn’t agree more. Ironically, I spoke of the Model T in my book and analogized the Industrial Revolution to our present decade. I highlighted the shared ideal of redemptive deconstruction—one where the world tears down what doesn’t work and rebuilds again anew with vigor. I truly believe that we are exiting a period of darkness with corporate leaders taking on a heightened sense of moral responsibility that will help direct us toward a much brighter and better tomorrow.

I am proud to say that my company Brandthropologie is not just talking the talk, but walking the walk. Not only are we helping brands follow the ideals of visionaries like Adam and Holly, but we are also working to grow the technology of our own new parent company Centiment. Centiment, an IBM With Watson company, is neurodata technology built to do good.  For the first time in history, we have the ability to quantify, measure + understand human thought. We are at the forefront of this shift and are helping pioneer a new age of marketing + advertising–one that is emotionally-informed, non-biased + purpose-driven.

I predict that the age of We has only just begun. I see a day in the not too distant future, where the line between personal and professional lives will continue to blur as the need to make personal value statements in all actions escalates. I imagine a bright future where the idea of brands isolating CSR and cause into compartmentalized units will evaporate. I see that in the age of collaboration we are living in today, purpose will continue to emerge less as a function of brand aesthetics and more as a vital driver of business strategy and innovation.

Consequently, in order to win in our new world, brands won’t need to just create the best “things”, they will need to embody the best values and ideals, while demonstrating a commitment to extend the notion of profit way beyond their bottom-line. The world of profit with purpose is here stay, and in my humble view, the age of WE-Commerce has only just begun.

Sharing Economy, We-Commerce And The Future Of Business

Billee Howard’s book, WE-Commerce: How to Create, Collaborate and Succeed in the Sharing Economy, highlights a world in which culture and commerce collide in ways that are considered unprecedented and an economy driven by entrepreneurialism and creativity. Howard talks about how the sharing economy ushered a variety of micro-economies that enable people to come together and experience luxuries they’ve never experienced before. She makes the argument that millennials, and Gen Z behind them, aren’t interested in owning possessions, but in sharing, borrowing, and using technology to come together and help make the world a better place.


Note – This Interview was originally published at >

Business Artistry

Warhol Passes Baton to Haring To Further Inspire Age of Business Artistry

As we all know, the sharing or “WE” economy, is a socio-economic ecosystem built around the sharing of human, physical and intellectual resources. It includes the shared creation, production, distribution, trade and consumption of goods and services by different people and organizations and is heavily reliant upon a few core principles: collaboration, creativity, and a celebration of the type of business artistryinvented by Warhol.

In our current world of WE, creative industries like fashion, art, and music drive the economy as much as—if not more than—finance, real estate, and law. And according to author Elizabeth Currid in her visionary book “The Warhol Way,” these creative industries have been fueled by the societal happenings that whirl around the clubs, galleries, music venues, and fashion shows where creative people meet, network, exchange ideas, pass judgments, and set the trends that shape popular culture.

These counter-intuitive ideas continue to drive our economy forward, and can without question be traced back to the days of Warhol, where the key tenet of culture driven commerce, sparked by collaboration was born. In the days of Andy Warhol’s FACTORY, boundless collaboration became integral to innovation, the worlds of art and business fused together, the POP Art movement consequently arrived…and the seeds of today’s sharing economy were planted.

It is therefore no coincidence, as the era of collaborative creativity has come to take center stage, that the works of Warhol have had a massive resurgence in recent times. Last year, Warhol was the second highest revenue generating artist, behind only Pablo Picasso, with sales totaling $416.5 million.

We have also witnessed an indelible Warhol imprint on culture driven commerce. There was the Perrier Warhol campaign, the Dom Perignon Warhol campaign, and the Absolut Warhol campaign alone in the last few years. And that’s just the beverage industry. NARS cosmetics had a Warhol inspired make up line, and just this past summer, Gucci launched a “meeting Warhol’s ghost in a public toilet” campaign with an eye on revitalizing its brand and making it more accessible. Perhaps they were following suit to their former creative director Tom Ford, who also launched a Warhol inspired campaign for his line three years ago.

And it didn’t stop there. Brands across the land also took a less literal interpretation to fusing the Warholian lens of collaboration and craftsmanship to invite consumer engagement and to spotlight his idea of everyone having a chance to be famous for 15 minutes.

There was the Lincoln rebrand around artisan automobiles and the Lays consumer innovation driven DO ME A FLAVOR campaign. There was also the explosion of Factory-esque sharing platforms in the workplace like We-Works, Office Nomads and Icehouse.

As I said in my book We-Commerce, we have entered a Warholian age of creative commerce driven by culture, where we are consequently being pushed to emerge as “artists of business” if we are to stand out and succeed. We without question live in a world which increasingly rewards collaborating around the idea of art + commerce = innovation, and are being forced to agilely adapt as a result.

In my book, there is a chapter entitled “Become An Artist of Business” where I explore these ideas and mention that other disciples (past and present) of the “Warhol Way” will soon begin to flood the landscape as proof of this concept and as the age of all things Andy reaches a critical saturation point.

One of the artists I flag that this would most likely happen with was Keith Haring, and as 2016 comes to a close, the era of sharing or “Haring” could not be more evident.

Haring took the idea of art + commerce equaling innovation to the next level honing in on the notions of accessibility and purpose. He opened the first ever Pop Shop in the 1980s in Soho to make his drawings available to everyone. Pop up shops by leading brands as disparate as e-Bay and Warby Parker have flooded the landscape for the last several years and show no sign of abating anytime soon, as winning brands seek to make their offerings available to all through one of a kind experiences that “pop.”

Haring also pre-dated acclaimed graffiti bandit Banksy with his underground subway scrawlings, seeking to make his art accessible, but to also showcase the power of visual imagery in conveying influential messages. In a world where images clearly trump words everywhere we look from Instagram to Emojis, Haring’s influence is palpable. Snapchat, perhaps the king of visual imagery, which recently rebranded itself as just Snap, even just released its Spectacles glasses product designed solely to help consumers capture and share unique visual imagery.

Haring used his one of a kind visual communication to imbue a sense of activism around critical societal issues like drugs and AIDS. There was the infamous Crack is Wack series and the memorable Stop Aids collection.

As I highlight in We-Commerce, this influence can be seen taking shape in the new age of business, with companies of all shapes and size, and across all industries, demonstrating the need to act with a sense of purpose each and every day, not just around sustainability or philanthropy efforts. Using commerce to instill purpose and not just profit is ubiquitous today and clearly mimics Haring’s use of art to activate meaningful change.

Pepsi pioneered this idea over a decade ago with its critically acclaimed Refresh platform, and we see these concepts at work everywhere today from GM partnering with Lyft to advance the age of autonomous vehicles, to brands like Tom’s Shoes and Salesforce innovating and disrupting around the 1:1 give back model, where portions of profits are immediately put back into the world to do good.

Keith Haring’s art was auctioned for a record price this year, hitting the $4.2 million mark for one piece at a Sotheby’s event this summer. If we continue to play out the Warhol influence paradigm, perhaps this is a clear indication that our world of creativity, collaboration and purpose has only just begun.

Business Artistry

cc – proudlyyours

I for one hope it is a clear harbinger of the era of “artists of business“ meaningfully  taking hold. An era of commerce where creativity, sharing and a sense of worthwhile contribution, set the bar on what true innovation, profitability and leadership could, and should, really look like.

As Keith once famously said, “The public needs art – and it is the responsibility of a ‘self-proclaimed artist’ to realize that the public needs art, and not to make bourgeois art for a few and ignore the masses.”

Today maybe, just maybe, we can all continue to extend that notion to business and entrepreneurialism, using the age of sharing or “Haring,” and the artistry of business driving it, to realize the vision of us all being better in the service of the collective we over the singular me.

Read an excerpt from We-Commerce on “Becoming an Artist of Business” in Time magazine’s Motto here:

Billee Howard is Founder + Chief Engagement Officer of Brandthropologie, a cutting edge communications collective specializing in identifying the most powerful collision point of culture and commerce for each client to create captivating stories that are consumed, shared and drive meaningful and measurable engagement. Billee is a veteran communications executive in brand development, trend forecasting, strategic media relations, and C-suite executive positioning. She has a book dedicated to the study of the sharing economy called WeCommerce released in December 2015 as well as a blog entitled the The Brandthropologist ( dedicated to curating the trends driving our economy forward. She is also a regular contributor to Forbes and HuffPo on the topics of marketing, storytelling and the collaborative economy.

Collaborative Economy

Collaborative Economy Paves The Way To New Era of Collaborative Purpose

The sharing or collaborative economy is growing daily around the world and quickly morphing into a recognized driver of purpose as much as democratized access and convenience.

As the eras of purposeful business and sharing collide, the impact has been massive and far-reaching. By combining the core tenets of profiting with purpose with the new notions of trust and borrowing vs. ownership the collaborative economy is based upon, the global business landscape is experiencing a groundswell shift as powerful as the one felt in the days of the Industrial Revolution.

As this movement continues to evolve, we are seeing the new economy positively impact all walks of society including: innovation, economic development, equity, safety and implementation. Examples of this are rampant as both cities and emerging market regions around the world seek to harness the awesome mettle of this new economic engine to drive meaningful growth, development, transformation and collective purpose.

This is a refreshing twist as for far too long the power of collaborative consumption and its groundbreaking innovation has been relegated largely to the topics of ride and home sharing. The far greater opportunity to view the sharing economy as a massive economic shift that is positively altering the way we live work and play and impacting areas as far ranging as urbanization and sustainability, has unfortunately been mostly overlooked.

Over the last two years or so positive examples of collaborative purpose have been slowly emerging. In the United States, Etsy’s Craft Entrepreneurship programs in New York City, Chicago, Dallas, Newark and Santa Cruz give new life to public-private collaboration and allow first-hand exposure to new business models. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the Bloomberg Mayor’s Challenge is proposing to apply sharing economy principles in different ways to help imbue new energy and innovation into the region. In Asia, Seoul’s Society 3.0has supported dozens of resident-led sharing initiative with public funding and other resources, with the primary goal of boosting community connectedness trust and purposeful collaboration.

As recently as this month, the models of collaborative purpose have only become more striking and powerful. For example, the sharing economy is gradually coming to more and more aspects of African life, including home cleaning and ridesharing. Now, Ghanaian startup Swiftly is taking it into the shipping space.

sharing economy

Launched earlier this year, Swiftly matches people with goods to ship with spare space in containers, whether being sent by sea, air or land. Chief executive officer (CEO) Edem Dotse told Disrupt Africa this month that the service has benefits in terms of both the cost of shipping goods and protecting the environment.

“It is just wasteful when someone has to ship a half full container by sea, or a half full package by air, or hire a delivery truck or van without fully utilizing the space,” Dotse said.

The opportunity for purposeful collaboration in Africa, the world’s fastest growing economy is massive.  The elements highlighted by local providers – access to more work opportunities in struggling employment markets, and a pre-existing culture of sharing assets – may contribute to the fact that on-demand services have encountered limited opposition in Africa to date and will likely continue to flourish without abatement. This is a trend likely to continue in similar emerging markets around the world.

Another great recent example of purposeful sharing is UK based start up OLIO.  OLIO connects neighbors with each other and local shops so that food can be shared instead of thrown away. They are trying to reduce food waste which is a huge problem in the UK and globally (50% of the  £10 billion of good food wasted in the UK/year comes from the home). They currently have over 55,000 users, and have been used over 200,000 times to share surplus food.

In our emerging world of placing the “we” over the “me,” the collaborative purpose movement in business is just another example of the awesome power of We-Commerce and proof of the longevity and transformative power of our new economy. OLIO’s mission statement perhaps describes what our new world is about best: “Small collective actions can lead to big change.”

Billee Howard is Founder + Chief Engagement Officer of Brandthropologie, a cutting edge communications collective specializing in helping organizations and individuals to produce innovative, creative and passionate dialogues with target communities, consumers and employees, while blazing a trail toward new models of artful, responsible, and sustainable business success. Billee is a veteran communications executive in brand development, trend forecasting, strategic media relations, and C-suite executive positioning. She has a book dedicated to the study of the sharing economy called WeCommerce released in December 2015 as well as a blog entitled the #HouseofWe dedicated to curating the trends driving our economy forward. She is also a regular contributor to Forbes on the topics of marketing, storytelling and the collaborative economy.

Note: This article first appeared on Billee’s Huffingtonpost page.