Over the past decade, particularly the last five years, we've seen a meteoric rise in subscription services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Spotify, Rdio and Mog. Services like Zipcar, a car sharing service that allows people to lease their now cars to others when their vehicles aren't in use, have grown in popularity as Millennials and the Internet have come of age in a collaborative economy.
Ownership doesn't carry as much weight as it used to.
People Care About Access
There was a time when ownership was the only way to have access to movies you wanted to see, music you wanted to listen to and things you wanted to use, but the Internet has lowered a lot of barriers. People can easily use mobile devices to find ways around ownership. They can solicit access to something someone else owns or use a dedicated service like Zipcar to get what they need. They don't care if they have it. They care about having the peace of mind that they can get it.
Part of this has been driven by the economy Millennials, which have struggled to find jobs, have found ways to cope by figuring out what they need to have and what they just need access to. There's a big difference.
Brands Should be Scared
This is a scary proposition for brands that exist to sell products to people. Brands that are focused on delivering experiences to sell products stand a chance. They have something that's irreplaceable. Experience comes across in products that have no substitution (e.g., music streaming services), show accountability (e.g., customer service) and stand for something more (e.g., purchasing the product equates to making a statement). What is your brand experience? Can it be substituted? Can it be replaced?