There is a shift in consumerism that is transforming how brands sell. Brands no longer sell things. Instead, brands sell access. Access to services for the same products consumers use to own. It is quite a transformation taking place, and I think it is only going to increase from here rapidly. Let’s dive in.
The era of ownership is in decline. In the 20th century, consumers became used to a particular way of thinking: if you needed something, you bought it. Cars, electronics, houses, CDs, DVDs, you name it. With efficient manufacturing and logistics in place, it was possible to create an abundance of stuff around the globe. Ownership quickly became about being someone; it defined who you are.
Today, consumers are caught up in a world of consuming and acquiring things. We let products represent us, our success, our personal brands around these commodities. There is a shift happening that has begun to disrupt several industries. Younger generations are leading the way in this new way of consuming via access instead of ownership.
The Decline of the Music and Movie Industries
It uses to be that when an artist released a new album, or when a new movie came out, people would rush to purchase their physical copy. Now, with music streaming services like Pandora, Apple Music, and Spotify, most people prefer to stream the music instead of buying it for themselves. Music is accessed, not owned. The same goes for movies as well. I am a huge Jason Bourne fan and remember being so excited to have the blue-ray box set. That was only a couple years ago. Now, I can access those same movies on Netflix. (I’m still glad I own my box set)
This shift is just the beginning. I’ve been noticing it more and more over the last 18 months or so. Ever since moving to Chicago and selling my BMW, I’ve become one of the millennials who doesn’t own a car but instead accesses a car via Uber, Lyft, or ZipCar.
The “As a Service” Model Heats Up Across Brands
When “software as a service” or SaaS first became widespread, it was a game changer. It seemed that only certain industries or segments could utilize or leverage SaaS. Now, nearly 15+ years later, brands from across industries are using “as a service” models to deliver their products and services.
The latest as a service model to gain popularity is the “Mobility-as-a-Service” (MaaS). It is a model for traffic without ownership. Instead of owning a car and being responsible for maintenance and everything that comes with it, instead you pay a monthly fee, like with Netflix or Apple Music, tell the app where you are going and get instant access to taxis, buses, and so on. Everything is available on-demand and ownership is no longer needed.
What is so Revolutionary About the As a Service Model?
First, when we consume things, we become lazy and easily forget what we have bought. One of the reasons American Pickers is so interesting to watch is because the people Mike and Frank meet around the country don’t realize the things they have acquired. Or worse, they forget why they bought the thing in the first place.
The second reason is that our planet Earth cannot survive with the global population consuming so much stuff at such a rapid pace. On-demand is about using things when we need them. It leads to more, effective use of resources.
It takes large amounts of natural resources to manufacture a car, house, or smartphone in the first place. According to the Nordic think tank Demos Helsinki, we are now running out of these resources.
Brands Have an Opportunity to Develop a Sustainable Model
Brands that have begun to pivot towards selling access are able to develop a more sustainable business model, building a deeper relationship with their audience, and are able to serve their customers in a more efficient way.
What Do You Think?
As the shift continues to take shape, what else in our lives might be transformed next? Housing, mobility, and communications are all rapidly increasing to meet the demand, however how sustainable is the current model?