Stop competing, start collaborating.

Source: Google ImagesThis past week certainly had its fair share of very interesting stories; however. most of them were overshadowed by the Google/Groupon saga. Although it’s very tempting to write about the tale of Google and Groupon, most of my thoughts this week centered around a very interesting move by Gowalla.

For a long time Gowalla’s presence was hidden underneath Foursquare’s rising success among well-known brands, even though Gowalla was around before Foursquare was. A couple of weeks ago, I read an engaging profile written by Fast Company about Josh Williams (Gowalla’s Co-Founder and CEO). The article provided me with a better understanding of the core purpose behind Gowalla’s existence. To quote directly from the article, “Josh Williams liked to travel, and explore, and he wanted others to embrace that same spirit--and what it means--in a social and sharable way.

Source: Google ImagesAfter re-reading this article, it seems clear to me why Gowalla decided to incorporate itself with Foursquare and Facebook. The latter two companies have now become such essential social tools for digital consumers that it could only benefit anyone to collaborate with them. This was still a very bold move by Gowalla, the company essentially made the choice to stop competing and start collaborating. It is still yet to be decided what will become of this bold move, but I’m hoping that both Facebook and Foursquare (primarily the latter) will play along with the new rules of competition.

3 key takeaways from Gowalla’s move:

  1. Put yourself in the consumer’s shoes - Forget trying to shape the behaviour of a consumer and instead, focus on changing your own behaviour to suit theirs. One of the keys to a disruptive technology is that it takes something consumers are already trying to do and makes it easier. Gowalla just potentially became a one stop shop. 
  2. Target markets are not fixed - Human beings are complex. Even though some of us may be loyal toSource: Google Images certain brands in some respects, we may be very fluid between brands in others. Segmenting users especially when it comes to social technology can be dangerous, simply because everyone has an innate need to feel connected. If your brand is currently targeted... how can you collaborate with your competition to increase (or I should say blur) the span of your target market? 
  3. Competition does not have to be a zero-sum game - In a zero-sum game, the customer always wins... so who in their right mind would want to work at a company that always loses? It’s easy to picture your consumer base as a large pie... you have a chunk and your competition has a chunk... each day you both try to take away more of the other’s share. What if you stopped and together decided to make the pie bigger? 

Final thoughts: Chief Insurgent in the new consumer revolution, Alex Bogusky was recently quoted saying, “collaboration is the new competition.” Josh Williams certainly seems to agree. In this age of hyper-competition, it may be more useful to shake hands, rather than throw punches.