Open For Business

Next to the work space room was a lounge area with a ping pong table, a TV and the box.  The box is Boxee’s flagship product and I had arrived at Boxee’s New York office to have a conversation with Andrew Kippen, Boxee’s VP of Marketing. I was interested in Boxee and the platform they were building and very curious about the box.

Boxee, a New York tech startup is gradually changing the dynamics of how we experience TV. It promises to change the way you consume TV by customizing the viewing experience. One can download the free Boxee software from their website and then experience pictures, videos and movies digitally. The Boxee device helps people find their favorite shows and movies and puts them on your TV. What is especially interesting is that they are an open source company and make most of their applications available to users and developers.  After firing a few questions about the company and the industry, I asked Andrew if open source has become the new business model. Andrew stated that open source has not necessarily become a model but being open is a key component to be successful in today’s marketplace.

Open source has become more prevalent in recent years and will be even further relevant moving forward. I remember attending the 2010 BRITE Conference at the Columbia Business School and listening to Bre Pettis passionately talk about his open source company, MakerBot Industries which produces 3D printers. I knew I had to get involved with MakerBot then and worked at MakerBot over the summer on creating ad campaigns and learned a lot on how they have built the brand. MakerBot has an online design community called Thingiverse where people all over the world share designs.

Being an “open” company gives the power to the users and customers. When users are empowered they become further engaged with the product and the brand and this is every brand’s desire. Today’s brand is about the customer experience. Once customers are engaged and have control, they will interact with the brand in their own terms which makes them more loyal to the brand and loyalty will be seen in more than just financial returns. Customers will share their experiences with the brand on media outlets such as blogs, YouTube, Reddit, Twitter and Facebook so each brand has to make customer service an integral part of their marketing.

In his book, What Would Google Do?, Jeff Jarvis talks about openness and collaboration. He states that “if you don’t open up, you cannot collaborate and collaboration with customers is the highest and most rewarding form of interactivity”. I concur with his statement “if you’re lucky, they’ll take ownership in the product you create together, they won’t just buy it, they’ll also brag about it.” Having your customers brag about the product means the brand has not only met but fully exceeded the customer’s expectations.

So in the digital age, open has become a business model. If a business is not open, they have to rethink their strategies because customers are demanding more and seeking further control. Customers are recreating the brand landscape and the experience is being driven from them to the companies rather than the other way around. Customers have become the directors in this picture and companies have become the actors. If you’re a brand, go ahead and open it up so that customers can take it and experience it in their own ways; you’ll be amazed at what they do with it plus you’ll look great that way in this digital age.

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