Exquisite Corpse: A Surrealist Approach to Business

A friend sent me an email about an AAF event he attended the other night featuring Brian Collins and Leland Maschmeyer, partners at Collins: http://www.collins1.com/. They presented an experiential design concept they call Brand Commons. Basically it is the idea of the controlled release of a brand or campaign to the consumer with the purpose of interaction, similar to surrealism experiments called Exquisite Corpse – each person adding surprising content to create a work of art, or in Collins clients’ cases, a brand experience. Nothing necessarily new, but packaged well with guidelines on how to view brands and consumers.

He went on to describe their vision this way. Their perceived evolution of business from Traditional Commercial Activity to Brand Commons Commercial Activity runs like this:
1. Consumers -> Peers
2. Amassing Power -> Giving Strength
3. Control -> Surprise
4. Monologue -> Dialogue
5. Engage -> Involve

And they identified 6 elements to consider when designing an experiential solution:
1. A defined space for people to share
2. A goal that motivates people to participate
3. Simple rules for participants to follow in pursuit of that goal
4. A way for participants to communicate
5. Tools for participants to act creatively and autonomously
6. Feedback that motivates participants to amplify, mitigate or change certain behaviors.

Interestingly, the idea of a changing marketplace defined in large part through the abandonment of the transactional, one-way exchange for a dialog where power and structure are a shared enterprise between the brand and it’s range of constituents (from buyer to designer to institution) is an idea to which many an anthropologist would subscribe. Needless to say, I love the ideas being presented. For those interested in turning cultural insights into something meaningful, this is an interesting place to start.


Published by gavinjohnston67

Take an ex-chef who’s now a full-fledge anthropologist and set him free to conduct qualitative research, ethnography, brand positioning, strategy and sociolinguistics studies and you have Gavin. He is committed to understand design and business problems by looking at them through an anthropological lens. He believes deeply in turning research findings into actionable results that provide solid business strategies and design ideas. It's not an insight until you do something with it. With over 18 years of experience in strategy, research, and communications, he has done research worldwide for a diverse set of clients within retail, legal, banking, automotive, telecommunications, health care and consumer products industries.

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