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Chapter 1 | Exponential Brands Guidebook

From Push to Pull

Exponential brands pull people into orbit around a shared purpose, prioritizing relationships over transactions.

Where traditional companies push out messages and products, today’s most successful brands pull customers in.

Going beyond social media campaigns and hopes that ads will "go viral", exponential brands weave together the social exchanges and inherent value that already exist for their customers, generating brand gravity and giving people a reason to stay in the loop.

The network effects that make viral content marketing so attractive to companies can be achieved in a more sustainable and authentic way by tending your brand orbit, making spaces and touchpoints that people not only want to spend time in, but will share with their friends. And the exponential growth a strong and reciprocal brand community can generate isn't just the result of customers inviting their friends. A network—or in this case a community—increases in value for everyone with each new member and interaction.

Social exchanges, influence and brand orbit are exponential strategies to drive growth—since they have the potential to bring exponential results that advertising budgets literally cannot buy.

From monologue to conversation

In yesterday’s one-to-many world, companies did all the talking.

Before the Internet, all media—books, radio, television, film, magazines, and newspapers—were based on a 'one-to-many' communication model.

Messages were designed for wide audiences and went in one direction only: out.

The publishers and reporters didn’t know when or if you were reading the morning newspaper. When you talked back at the TV news, the broadcaster couldn’t hear you.

In the one-to-many model, everyone is viewed as a potential consumer—of information, entertainment, products, and services.

When the Internet came along, everyone got the ability to broadcast. Brands discovered that their 'audiences' were no longer only on the receiving end of information and content. Suddenly, anyone could comment on a news story—or publish their own—in public or widely-accessible channels.

Social media changed the game again. One-to-many became many-to-many.

Now, people can talk to each other in the same channels that brands are using to push their messages. Audiences have become communities, and the Internet is full of people making connections and exchanging value with each other.

Mass communication has become mass collaboration. Consumers have become co-creators.

A new mindset for marketing is needed

It's hard to differentiate when everyone is shouting.

Digital communication has brought about the proliferation of channels, the fragmentation of audiences, and the rising importance of influencers, peer reviews, and word of mouth.

We've also seen the devaluation of brands and increased commodification of products through online platforms like Amazon, where people will choose a brand they’ve never heard of with 1,000 five-star reviews over a known brand with none.

All of this makes it harder and harder for brands with a traditional marketing mindset to cut through the noise of the marketplace. The result? Declining loyalty and a lack of differentiation.

From purchase to purpose

Today’s most successful brands differentiate through connection with a larger purpose.

“Boxed Water is Better” focuses on reducing the environmental impact of packaged water.

Efforts to improve customer experience don't necessarily generate the kind of loyalty and differentiation companies are looking for anymore. That's because they’re still focused on transactions rather than relationships.

Widely used models for customer journeys and sales are all about leading up to and repeating the moment of purchase. But to the customer, buying something is not the focus of the experience. At the very least, a purchase is just a step towards the customer's end goal of using the product or service.

The reality is that relationships between people and brands take place in a much larger social and relational context than many companies realize. Given comparable options, customers will choose a brand they feel a connection with. Often this connection is related to a sense of Shared Purpose or values.

EXAMPLE

Sephora

In the evolution of its brand message, beauty and personal care retailer Sephora shows a progression in thinking from transaction to relationship, and from purchase to purpose.

In its early years, Sephora positioned itself as “The Beauty Authority,” focusing on its expertise in helping customers purchase and use beauty products.

This message evolved into "Transforming Beauty” and “Beauty Together,” which brought Sephora and its customers together in a conversation about beauty itself.  This also connected Sephora to a larger social movement to question and re-invent beauty standards to be more inclusive and accessible to everyone.

Most recently, Sephora's message is “Be Fearless,” which expands the Shared Purpose beyond beauty to invoke a courageous way of being in the world.

EXAMPLE

Cherokee Uniforms

Nursing scrubs are the kind of product you might think would be difficult to differentiate. But Cherokee Uniforms shows how to build differentiation by focusing on purpose beyond their products.

Cherokee Uniforms celebrates the tremendous contributions healthcare workers make to society, saying its goal is to be their champion.

It funds scholarships for nurses, recognizes exceptional nurses and funded a documentary aimed at reducing burnout among nurses.

Cherokee creates a strong relationship with its customers around the Shared Purpose of appreciating and supporting nurses' success and wellbeing.

Example

Figs

Medical uniforms—or “scrubs”—are the kind of product you might think would be difficult to differentiate. But Figs shows how to build differentiation by focusing on purpose beyond their products.

The company’s purpose FOR is to “celebrate, empower & serve those who serve others.” They put this commitment into action with an impressive portfolio of contributions to healthcare workers, including a Threads for Threads program that donates scrubs to resource-poor communities.

But where Figs goes beyond their product is when they work towards a Shared Purpose, a purpose WITH their customers to care for the Earth and the humans who live here. The environmental expression of this shows in the brand’s commitment to an ethical supply chain and ecologically responsible textiles. Figs’ effort towards Shared Purpose also includes “missions” where the brand teams up with healthcare workers—whom Figs calls “Awesome Humans”—to provide not only uniforms but also free healthcare services to communities in need. These active contributions to their customers and the things they care about set Figs apart as much if not more than the quality of their products. And Figs benefits from the resulting brand gravity and gratitude that bring in the revenue needed for the company to not only thrive but continue to partner generously with their customers to make the world a healthier place.

What is Quantum Computing? | IBM
IBM
Garrett Pepper

Explore use cases for quantum spanning from electronic vehicles to complex energy challenges, along with explainers of key quantum concepts.

Get Ready for the Quantum Impact
Accenture
Garrett Pepper

This white paper by Accenture details their perspective on the future of quantum computing with compare and contrasts to analog computing, foresight into business use cases and steps you can take to apply this to your business.

IBM Quantum Composer
IBM
Garrett Pepper

Want to get nerdy and experiment with quantum circuits? IBM built an interactive tool for you to experiment with—all you need is a browser.

Meta establishes 4-foot “personal boundary” to deter VR groping [Updated] | Ars Technica
Ars Technica
Garrett Pepper

Our virtual experience impacts our physical well-being. Online harassment has real-world consequences. Read this article to see how the personal space boundary was developed to curb the virtual harassment of avatars—our virtual extensions of self.

What is Quantum Computing | Microsoft Azure
Microsoft
Garrett Pepper

Microsoft Azure provides a simple and direct set of definitions, explanations and examples of quantum computing.

Quantum Computing Expert Explains One Concept in 5 Levels of Difficulty | WIRED - YouTube
Garrett Pepper

Learn about quantum computing as it's explained to a child, a teen, an undergrad, a graduate student, and an expert to see the concept at various levels of complexity and gain language to communicate it to others.

Acura Integra NFT
Acuraverse.com
Garrett Pepper

Acura is the first automaker to open a digital showroom in the metaverse. This digital showroom offers a digital look at the company's newest model coupled with a limited edition NFT and digital clothing line by artist Andreas Wannerstedt. Acura is differentiating itself from other competitors by meeting customers in virtual worlds.

Horizon Worlds | Virtual Reality Worlds and Communities
Oculus
Garrett Pepper

Horizon Worlds is a virtual world powered by Meta's Oculus technology. Meta is the rebranded name for the Facebook corporation, and their rebrand emphasizes the mainstream importance of metaverses. Given Meta's considerable financial resources and popularity, as well as VR hardware technology, Horizon Worlds will likely be a prominent metaverse over the next few years.

The Sandbox Game — User-Generated Crypto & Blockchain Games
Sandbox.game
Garrett Pepper

The Sandbox is a metaverse that was initially a mobile phone game and has pivoted to become a decentralized immersive 3D world-builder. It has over two million users. To join in, you will need a cryptocurrency wallet that enables you to buy and sell NFTs on its marketplace, backed by the Ethereum blockchain. A unique aspect of The Sandbox is the ability to buy, sell and rent out virtual land, sometimes for a profit.

Welcome to Decentraland
Decentraland
Garrett Pepper

Decentraland is a metaverse where users have the agency to develop and profit from their content. It was the first metaverse to be backed by the Ethereum cryptocurrency. Its blockchain-based software allows users to purchase and own virtual land as a recorded digital asset.

Fortnite’s Ariana Grande concert offers a taste of music in the metaverse | TechCrunch
Tech Crunch
Garrett Pepper

Virtual worlds lack physical boundaries and are by nature immersive and deeply expansive. Currently, the most coveted metric for any online experience is user engagement. The metaverse can host millions of users simultaneously, revolutionizing event production. Pop star Ariana Grande's massively attended and immersive online concert shows us the potential for future music and entertainment platform events.

The Metaverse and Crypto | The Motley Fool
The Motley Fool
Garrett Pepper

In an open and immersive virtual world, data, currencies, and transactions are core aspects of a digitally native experience. Use this article to get to know how these ideas are entangled with the economic fabric of virtual reality.

Roblox
Roblox
Garrett Pepper

Roblox is a gaming platform that has several virtual worlds contained within it. Wildly popular first among young people, Roblox has an active user base exceeding 150 million. What sets this platform apart from its competitors is its concern for the safety of its (often young) user base while connecting them in real-time. Their success proves a critical aspect of a developing metaverse is real-time interaction with engaging activities in a welcoming environment.

The Ikea Place App Shows the Practical Promise of AR Kit | WIRED
Wired
Garrett Pepper

Ikea shortens the gap between designing your space and purchasing their products by developing an AR app that helps you improve your furniture buying experience.

How the Metaverse Could Change Work
Harvard Business Review
Garrett Pepper

Virtual reality and the technologies that power it are not only changing the way we think about work but also how and where we work together. This technology opens up opportunities for business and innovation on a global scale.

Metaverse DAO – Let's build the future
Metaversedao.app
Garrett Pepper

MetaverseDAO is a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) that creates value through "yield-farming" across different networks. This site is not a metaverse but a financial organization that uses its profits to build VR/AR gaming. Using blockchain technology, the user's who have invested in this process collectively vote and authorize projects.

VR vs. AR vs. MR vs. XR: What's the difference? - Big Think
Big Think
Garrett Pepper

New technologies can have overlapping capabilities while taking up the same conceptual space. Use this article to understand the basics of VR, AR, MR, and XR and how they relate to each other.

Current and Potential Uses of AR/VR for Equity and Inclusion | ITIF
ITIF
Garrett Pepper

There is a profound opportunity to develop AR/VR technology that uplifts marginalized and disabled communities. Read this post as it is a powerful primer on future action and innovation toward an accessible and equitable Metaverse.

The creation of the metaverse: The market | VentureBeat
VentureBeat
Garrett Pepper

Use this article to familiarize yourself with the basic concepts of the Metaverse. It contains an interesting take on how VR headsets will need to become a lot more user-friendly before GenZ mass adopts the hardware.

Goldman, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan embrace quantum computing - Protocol
Protocol
Garrett Pepper

Learn why some of the biggest banks are investing in quantum computing and how simulations are used to forecast market effects. Could the race to this new faster technology redefine the banking industry?

3 Reasons Why VR and AR Are Slow to Take Off
Gartner
Garrett Pepper

Curious about the market potential for VR and AR? Introduce yourself to three reasons why VR and AR might be considered "slow to take off".

Quantum computers: Computing the impossible - YouTube
Garrett Pepper

This fun-to-watch introduction to quantum computing introduces fundamentals such as the definition of a qubit, quantum entanglement, and some potential use cases for this type of computing.

Can we create a moral metaverse? | The metaverse | The Guardian
The Guardian
Garrett Pepper

People bring behaviors like creativity, joy and care into the metaverse. They also bring bad ones, like harassment and abuse. The metaverse as an idea requires moderating not just content but attending to behavior. Some moments of harassment lead to innovation of features like a personal boundary function around an avatar. Also there is a lot of opportunity for skillful upgrades of AI and content moderation—especially in 'context-aware' recognition of potential harms.

Now Is The Time To Talk About Ethics And Privacy In The Metaverse
Forbes
Garrett Pepper

Several issues are important to solve in the creation of metaverses, such as hyper-reality that causes VR sickness and privacy. Users are willing to engage in an exchange of data as long as they have agency over it. If technology starts to catalog thought through Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI) or biometric data larger ethical issues can arise.

What distinguishes a metaverse from an online video game? – Plugavel
Plugavel
Garrett Pepper

Online video games are a rallying point for entertainment and world-building. The need to play, explore and create is a shared value between games and metaverses because gaming is often an entry point into new ideas and technology. The metaverse takes the world-building of gaming a step further and releases us from any single programmed narrative, and allows the user to explore and define their own experience.

Metaverse and Money: Decrypting the Future
Citi Bank
Garrett Pepper

Take a deep dive into the definitions of the metaverse and their financial and market implications with this white paper written by Citibank.

The Metaverse, Explained for People Who Still Don’t Get It
Vice
Garrett Pepper

If you still don't quite get what the Metaverse is, this article will help you with some basic definitions, relationships, and applications.

What Is the Metaverse, Exactly? | WIRED
Wired
Garrett Pepper

Another dive into the ideas, structure and potential of the metaverse. The important take away is that the term 'Metaverse' "doesn't refer to one specific type of technology, but rather a broad (and often speculative) shift in how we interact with technology."

APIs are becoming a cybersecurity disaster zone
TechRadar
Garrett Pepper

APIs are becoming very popular, and many companies are experiencing API-related cybersecurity incidents. Techradar breaks down the facts about API security risks and links them to a report that can help enterprises make informed decisions about their data.

Workrooms | VR for Business Meetings
Oculus
Garrett Pepper

By meeting in virtual space teams create a space for relationships to grow regardless of physical proximity. Oculus by Meta looks to promote an immersive and global remote working culture using VR technology.

How Brands Can Enter the Metaverse
Harvard Business Review
Garrett Pepper

A quick read focusing on how brand management teams can access the marketing and community potential of the metaverse. Becoming an early adopter in this new digital landscape sets brands apart from their competitors.

Opportunities in the Metaverse
JPMorgan Chase
Garrett Pepper

This whitepaper from ONYX by J.P Morgan promotes a "buy-in early" mentality alongside a valuation of the metaverse being a $1 trillion market opportunity.

Virtual real estate plot sells for record $2.4 million | Reuters
Reuters
Garrett Pepper

A patch of virtual real-estate in the metaverse Decentraland sold for the equivalent of 2.4 million USD using MANA (Decentraland's unique cryptocurrency). These digital "land grabs" show a building interest and act as a legitimizing signal for innovation, entrepreneurship, and digital business.

The risks and rewards of investing in the Metaverse real estate boom
CNBC
Garrett Pepper

A CNBC video reporting on the speculative value of virtual real-estate while also explaining some fundamentals of the potential metaverse.

Getting your financial institution ready for the quantum computing revolution
IBM
MJ Petroni
Chief Exponential Officer

This research piece by IBM explores various quantum computing possibilities for the financial world.

Quantum Computers Explained – Limits of Human Technology
Kurzgesagt
MJ Petroni
Chief Exponential Officer

Kurzgesagt makes creative, visually-compelling short videos that explore advanced topics in simple terms. Here, they unpack the bizarre dynamics of qubits and why quantum computing is so compelling.

3 Takeaways from Adidas's Use of Personalized Content at the Boston Marathon
Personalized content is becoming more popular in the marketing scene. What has your company done in that context?
Entrepreneur
Jessica Long
Chief Empowerment Officer

Personalization has been a buzzword in product innovation and marketing for years, but many brands are challenged to find ways to personalize that are efficient, relevant, and valuable. Adidas succeeded in finding that balance—leveraging cutting edge tech just enough to create valuable personal take-aways for this shared physical experience.

IBM Launches Blockchain Food Tracking Network, Joined by Retail Giant Carrefour
Albert Heijn, Holland’s largest supermarket chain, has revealed it is using blockchain for its own-brand “sustainable” orange juice’s supply chain.
Cointelegraph
Jessica Long
Chief Empowerment Officer

One way co-creation and shared purpose can show up between brands and customers is through supply chain transparency. It's interesting to see how blockchain can make it possible to offer supply chain information directly to the customer as they shop, with very little friction. We're curious to see how this data-driven conversation between brands and customers evolves, and excited to see the customer-to-farmer tip option facilitated by this tech!

The Eight Archetypes of Leadership
Which kind of leader are you?
Harvard Business Review
Jessica Long
Chief Empowerment Officer

In our conversations about Thinking Styles, we often discuss how enterprise culture sees some styles as more valuable than others in leadership roles. We had some epiphanies when we combined the model in this HBR article with our own, thinking about how different Thinking Styles may be expressed in these various leadership types.

13,000 Origami Sculptures Made From Chopstick Sleeves Left as “Tips” in Japan
Instead of money, waiters in Japan receive origami as tips.
My Modern Met
Jessica Long
Chief Empowerment Officer

Great example of an activity that happens in the relationship between customer and company, but is totally unrelated to the purchase or use of the product. You don't have to make origami out of the chopstick paper to enjoy eating at a sushi restaurant... but the paper's there so why not add a little value and meaning to the experience? And wouldn't it be cool if brands co-created this with customers by printing chopstick sleeves with patterns intended for origami? I noticed some customers have already come up with designs which use the pattern on the paper in creative ways.

Total Tech Support Dashboard – Best Buy
With a Total Tech Support plan, we'll support your tech, no matter where you purchased it. Visit the member dashboard to get help in store, over the phone and 24/7 online.
BestBuy.com
Jessica Long
Chief Empowerment Officer

The long term relationship between tech users and sellers includes more interactions related to usage and repair than new purchases. Pulling more of those interactions into their ORBIT—regardless of where the products were purchased—is a smart move.

This Online Tool Shows You Exactly How Old Your Skin Looks
The results are surprising.
Allure
Jessica Long
Chief Empowerment Officer

Interesting use of mobile and AI to enhance a brand ORBIT around a shared purpose with little data

Even Better Than the F’Real Thing
We were living a meme, one that as far as I can tell started just shortly before it swept us up in its B6 Self-Serve Blender-like force.
link.medium.com
Jessica Long
Chief Empowerment Officer

Convenience stores + DIY food prep + social media = milkshakes as social currency. Imagine all the free marketing Chevron and F'Real are getting from this. What's the key? Customers become co-creators by making the shakes themselves, which makes stopping at a gas station into a shareable event.

From Fortnite to Alt-Right
There’s a reason video games are such fertile ground for white nationalist recruitment.
The New York Times
Jessica Long
Chief Empowerment Officer

Dangerous or negative things can occur in an ORBIT too. Shared interests often come with other shared traits or demographics, which can make customer communities a prime target for third party manipulation. Brands and products which are fostering peer to peer co-creation and communication should be aware of how those communities may be exploited. The challenge: finding the right balance of empowering customers to freely connect and managing peer-to-peer spaces as a reflection of your brand's Shared Purpose and values.

Soul, Electrified by Porsche - Apple Music Playlist
The Taycan will be the first fully-electric Porsche - and just as soulful as the music on this playlist.
Apple Music
Jessica Long
Chief Empowerment Officer

"All Porsche models have something in common: They have a soul. A certain feeling you get as a driver as soon as you get behind the wheel." Porsche knows that music is a major factor in shaping that "certain feeling," so they leveraged a partnership with Apple Music in a playlist representing their new electric vehicle the Taycan. Smart move in giving a digital vibe to this new-tech vehicle, while also adding to the ongoing experience of the brand as atmosphere.

It's Time To Redefine Masculinity
As we push for that change, brands have the power to not just play a role in the cultural conversation, but to help shape it.
Forbes
Jessica Long
Chief Empowerment Officer

Forbes highlights a trend in gender-targeted brands that are aligning with  socio-cultural conversations relevant to their customers. Especially appreciated this quote from a marketing executive:  “Brands must first look at their mission statement and ethos to ensure that the messaging they want to deploy aligns with their core. Consumers can sense when something isn’t authentic and it will instantly set up the brand for unwanted backlash.”

How brands relate

To create engagement in a many-to-many world, find ways to enable and empower connections between customers.

Most companies focus on communicating to persuade customers and promote products. This is the mindset behind push marketing.

Some companies have also begun to listen and learn from the market, or from customers directly.

But today, the most powerful influence is what people say to each other—how your customers connect and collaborate with each other.

To create engagement in a many-to-many world, find ways to enable and empower connections between customers.

The push model

Traditional marketing is based on pushing information out.

Marketers segment

and target audiences,

sending messages

through channels

with campaigns

to move consumers

through stages

of a funnel.

The language and the thinking here is linear, transactional and directed "at" consumers.

The shift to pull

Technology is changing the nature of relationships, and brands need to pay attention.

It used to be that companies had to promote themselves by pushing information out so that people knew who they were, what they sold and why to buy from them.

But in the Digital Age, people can find this information on their own. So companies don't need to be as pushy as before.

Today's marketing is more a matter of attraction, of pulling people in towards brands and organizations.

Creating the kind of gravitational field that pulls people in and inspires engagement, trust and participation is a crucial challenge for leaders in the 21st century.

Push vs. pull brands

To pull people in, embed transactions inside relationships.

Push

Use relationships to drive transactions

The language and mindset of push brands is
linear, transactional and one-directional.

Broadcasting messages

through channels

to target audiences

and drive transactions

Pull

Embed transactions within relationships

The language and mindset of pull brands is
exponential, reciprocal and multi-directional.

Engaging communities

with reciprocity and trust

to sustain relationships

and fulfill Shared Purpose

Brand as relationship

Think beyond Buyer:Seller or
Producer:Consumer.

We often talk about a customer’s relationship with a brand. Instead, think of the brand itself as a relationship.

The default brand relationship is Producer:Consumer or Buyer:Seller. These relationships are one-directional and asymmetrical. The company produces the product or service, and the customer consumes it.

Today’s brand innovators are creating relationships beyond Buyer:Seller—ones that are more collaborative and reciprocal.

EXAMPLE

Brand relationships

  • Clothing subscription service Stitch Fix lends you outfits they select for you based on your preferences and feedback, moving away from a Retailer:Shopper dynamic to emulate the Friend:Friend intimacy of borrowing each others' clothes.
  • Room-sharing service Airbnb has disrupted the traditional brand relationship of Host:Guest and replaced it with Neighbor:Neighbor.
  • Smart home technology brand Google Nest has created a customer relationship that’s less Manufacturer:User and more Family:Family

All these relationships are more reciprocal, symmetrical and personal than Producer:Consumer.

The power of Shared Purpose

Shared Purpose tells us if we're all headed in the same direction.

Many hands touching and overlapping as they reach towards a central point.

Brand gravity forms around Shared Purpose, which is the larger intention that you and all your stakeholders are working toward together.

People don’t just want to be passive members of an audience. They want to be a part of something, to belong, influence, and engage.

Feeling good about your company's purpose is also not enough to create an authentic connection. Customers want to be in a relationship with brands whose purpose is theirs too. Shared Purpose is what your company does with other players—including customers—not just what it sells to or does for them.

Shared Purpose can shift the relationship between you and your customers from Producer:Consumer to Co-Creators.

If you want to learn more about Shared Purpose, you can read about it in our guidebook on narrative.

EXAMPLE

Barn raising

Rural communities in the United States have a tradition of communal building called a "barn raising". When someone needs a new barn or house, they just gather as a community with their skills and tools and make a building together.

People have a natural tendency to look to each other for advice and help. Digital technology has given people the tools to build their own “barns" online, from shared resources to communities of mutual interest.

Wherever your stakeholders are coming together as a community is an opportunity for you to strengthen relationships with and among them.

How do you ‘market’ to a barn raising? By serving the community. Making lunch. Sharpening tools. Lending a hand.

Exercise

How your brand relates

What types of communication does your brand invest in? What percentage of your total efforts does each type receive?

Think of major communication and customer relationship initiatives, and which types of communication they focus on. Notice where there are opportunities to do more.

Exercise

More push, or more pull?

List your company’s key marketing strategies and initiatives. For each, place it on the spectrum from push to pull. Most companies tend to rely more on either push or pull strategies. Where do your company’s strategies fall on that spectrum?

Exercise

Narrative elements

If you've already done the exercises in our Narrative Guidebook, bring over these key elements that connect you with your stakeholders.

SHARED PURPOSE

What are you creating with y​our stakeholders?

CONTRIBUTION

What does everyone contribute to the Shared Purpose?

BRAND ROLES

What is the role relationship between you and your customers?

Recap

To build engagement in the Digital Age, shift your marketing mindset from push to pull.

  • Today’s most successful brands differentiate themselves by creating brand relationships based on connection with a larger purpose.
  • To create engagement in a many-to-many world, find ways to enable and empower connections between customers.
  • As technology and relationships change, our marketing mindset needs to shift from push to pull.
  • Push brands use relationships to drive transactions. Pull brands embed transactions within relationships.
  • For brand relationships, think beyond Buyer:Seller or Producer:Consumer.
  • Shared Purpose transforms customers into co-creators.