Drops of sweat glimmering in fluorescent light, whirring sounds seep in from a ceiling fan. A group of men are lifting weights in a small gym in Mathura, a village in Uttar Pradesh, India. Our photojournalist on the ground, however, sees more: for us a gym is never just a gym. As we immerse beneath the surface, we discover how centuries-long hindu tradition for body building interplays with the sense of community evoked by a shared passion, and with the aesthetic perception of health in India. There are layers of meaning that attract and collide in this simple local gym.
In the pursuit of consumer insights, BAMM’s researchers have the privilege of being invited into the most private spaces of an informant’s life: their home. This time, however, we decided to unlock the front door and step out into the street. As part of our new RAW vision, BAMM sets out to investigate what the interaction between private and public a space can produce. We call this project Spaces In Flux.
In the fast-moving, complex world of today, it is vital for brands to go beyond the surface and find a way to be an integral part of the social dynamics present on the ground. Just as people don’t only see a logo when they see a brand, they also don’t just see a space as it was intended to be seen. How people shape spaces and spaces shape people can tell us a lot about the hidden forces within a specific community and culture.
This in turn helps our clients keep track of cultural shifts that shape beliefs, attitudes and behaviour, and the way they influence people’s relations with brands and consumption. At BAMM, we believe that the collective public spaces – often blind spots to conventional research – can hold the key to revealing hidden insights about the people we’ve come to study. Insights that can give our clients competitive edge.
As inspiration for our analysis, we draw from sociologist Henri Lefebvre’s Spatial Triad. Through this, we will try to decode and expose the dynamics of space by analysing Lefebvre’s three (superimposing) ‘types’ of spaces: the conceived space, referring to the intended use of space; the lived space, referring to the way in which space is used and lived (felt rather than thought), and the perceived space, referring to the subjective layers people assign to the space in question. This framework helps us immerse into our selected spaces with the right frame of mind, as well as helping us step back and see beyond what our lens can capture.
A space can be used for what it was intended for, but it never ends there. It becomes re-appropriated, used for other purposes, by the people who enter it, at different times, under different circumstances. Places are in a flux of forces, ideas, meanings. The dramas of everyday life may just play out while lifting weights in a local gym in India.
Over the next couple of months, we will be sharing some of the stories coming from our Spaces In Flux project in our blog. Through these stories, we will expose a revealing set of cultural insights – and their implications for brands. We will transport you to a cockfighting event in Manila, palm oil farming in Nigeria, amongst many other fascinating places. It will be an immersive experience that will entice your senses; just as if you were there with us.
First stop next week, we are going to visit a Laundromat in North York, a district in Toronto, which will present to us interesting insights about immigration, welfare and community spirit.