Coded Communication
Excursion into liminal space

Liminal Spaces


I've been thinking about liminal spaces.

I stole the term from the delightful Watching the English by Kate Fox. (I would suggest that this is essential reading for anyone trying to understand people or consumers or anything at all in England).

It's a very funny and very clever book: it unpicks the underlying rules of social grammar that dictate English behaviour and anyone who lives here will recognise them instantly when reading it, in particular the Importance of Not Being Earnest rule, which helps explain our pathological reliance on irony.

Ms Fox is an avid people watcher, as social anthropologists tend to be, and spends a great deal of time in pubs, covertly noting down conversati0ns and behaviours.

What she discovers is that pubs are liminal spaces - literally places where the boundaries blur and normal social rules are over turned. So at the bar in a pub you can talk to a random stranger and not get hit.  People interact. And you don't have to be drunk. Although we do use alcohol to facilitate this process.

And this also reminded me of the semi-hysteria the crowd experienced at  the Fuerzabruta show at the Roundhouse in Camden. There was a communal sense of well being and a breaking down of barriers that typifies a liminal space.

And then I started thinking, wouldn't it be cool if a brand experience was like that? I've been to quite a few and people tend to co-exist at these things as there is no central, collective experience.

But if a brand could curate a social experience in a liminal space, that was somehow more than a show or a festival - that was an immersive, collective transgression of the normal rules of social behaviour, wouldn't that be an incredibly powerful driver?

As a teenager, I recall going to my first gig. I had the record and had listened to it many times. But the experience of the gig crystalised something in my relationship with band - I became a fan so that even now, 14 years later, I will defend The Smashing Pumpkins to anyone who dares challenge their geek rock supremacy.

Couldn't the right brand experience turn consumers into fans?