The concept of transparency has grown into a mainstream instrument of business to create a more authentic connection with consumers. By now, people are accustomed to voting with their wallets and demanding more from brands, asking to look under the hood – can you be trusted, are you walking your talk? What makes your company, products and culture run? Increasingly though, this idea of transparency (letting people observe) is no longer enough. On the defensive, you share your culture and values outwardly. However this one-sided communication does not guarantee relevance. The most resilient brands have learned to play the offense by becoming ‘permeable’ (letting people participate). After all, if you’re not innovating with your future consumers, you’re not innovating for them.

Permeability creates opportunities for real world culture to inform company culture and output in real time. By actively engaging with relevant communities, you become complicit in creating culture. As part of the dialogue, you’re less reactive and more proactive. Brands and consumers engage in a shared journey, co-creating each others’ experiences. Why is this so important for the resiliency and success of your business?

  1. Your brand becomes more in tune with shifts in culture as they occur, guaranteeing relevance.
  2. Consumers have a more personal and customised experience, strengthening their bond with you.
  3. Mitigate the risk of creating brand products or experiences that fall flat.

An extreme example of strong brand/culture permeability is Airbnb. Aside from the actual product being embedded in culture (staying in locals homes), Airbnb takes it further, by actively cultivating and inviting in local knowledge from hosts. Authentic culture automatically washes through a guest’s stay, seamlessly creating a meaningful travel experience unrivalled by any hotel chain. No insights need to be groomed, nothing artificial needs to be invented or created.

The early majority of legacy companies are now realising they too need to open up to the outside world to avoid being disrupted by utilising their own present and future consumer communities in co-creation. But they’re unsure how to access and harness the right external resources. Abundance can create inertia around options and choice of methodologies.

Beyond social media engagement, what is your company doing to open up and mobilise the creativity of the communities that surround your brand?

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