“Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”

                           —Andy Warhol

Recognizing that business is an art form and that you, as a businessperson, are an artist is critical to surviving and thriving in the sharing economy. Leading brands must see themselves as artists of business first and agents of commerce second.
Art today is the ultimate vehicle for transforming a common commodity into a sought-after treasure. Why? Because art transforms something that was once utilitarian into a vessel of engagement, like Warhol did for the Campbell’s soup can.
Being an artist of business involves taking a product and turning it into an experience that engages the consumer and makes them a fan and loyalist for life because they are drawn to the product and to the emotions the product evokes. Try thinking about your products and services from an artistic point of view. What feelings do you want to evoke in your consumers? What feelings do you not want to illicit? Understand the creative and emotional impact of everything you do when it comes to your brand and learn how to create experiences, messages, stories, systems, services, and products that express the essence of that artistic vision.
How PepsiCo Turned a Bag of Chips into a Work of Art
PepsiCo demonstrated Warhol-inspired artistry with their Do Us a Flavor campaign, which invited customers to submit their ideas for a new potato chip flavor. The campaign is a great example of business art that turned their product, a bag of potato chips, into a canvas for global creative self-expression. This disruptively creative platform put potato chips front and center on the global stage by engaging the world in a co-creative process to artistically imagine a new generation of snack food, custom created by the public and Pepsi.
As the contest was global, an amazing array of exotic and unusual flavor combinations—from chicken and waffle to onion Lakshmi to Fluffernutter to pumpkin blood—were submitted to a panel of judges, who chose finalists from each country and ultimately a winner. The winner received $1 million and got their picture on their bag of chips.
The Do Us a Flavor campaign generated over 3.8 million submissions, and sales of the original chips, as well as sales of finalist chips, went through the roof. The campaign provided a ready and ever-renewing source of engaging content for the company’s website and YouTube channels.
The Do Us a Flavor campaign illustrates that today, people don’t just want to consume a product; they want to engage in the artistic endeavors brands can provide. And perhaps more important, this campaign demonstrates that creative experiences are what will influence purchasing decisions going forward, just as much as the quality of the product itself.
Interact and Connect
Warhol lived and worked in constant connection with others. The Factory was designed to be an environment that had all manner of people constantly connecting in new and unusual ways. This was the inspiration for Warhol’s art, and one of the reasons that he became more than a painter and grew into a movement that still has relevance today. In many ways, Warhol and his business model presaged the era of connectivity that we live in today through technology. So modern-day artists of business can learn a lot from Warhol’s approach to sharing.
The number one priority for brands today should be to create for the we and not for the me. While that is counterintuitive to traditional business strategy, as consumption is an individual activity, brands that embrace we-ness and build community are the ones that will ultimately win at the increasingly competitive global game of instigating consumer participation.
Why WeWork Works So Well
WeWork is a contemporary embodiment of the principles that drove Warhol’s Factory. WeWork bills itself as a community of creators, and has created work spaces nationwide designed to house the entrepreneurs, small business owners and artists of tomorrow, wherever they might live and work. WeWork is a business studio environment that appeals to innovators, mavericks, and artists who have left the constraints of corporate America behind and set off in pursuit of their own business missions with an eye toward building a better future.
Beyond office space, WeWork offers collaborative environments where innovators of all varieties can connect and share, resulting in countless mini incubators of business artistry. WeWork offers a panoply of services designed to instill and instigate creativity within its community. Amenities range from physical offerings like shared office space; conference rooms, and networking opportunities to creativity festivals such as sleep-away camp retreats imagined to facilitate collaborative imagination and innovation.
Adapted from We-Commerce: How to Create, Collaborate, and Succeed in the Sharing Economy by Billee Howard. © 2015 by Billee Howard. Tarcher Perigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
Billee Howard is the author of WE-COMMERCE: How to Create, Collaborate, and Succeed in the Sharing Economy (Perigee Books, Penguin Random House). Howard is based in New York and is founder and chief engagement officer of Brandthropologie, and president of Mojo Risin Studios. She has been guiding companies to produce, envision, innovate, and create passionate dialogues and has had the privilege of working with many great leaders and brands including Jeffrey Katzenberg, Dreamworks Animation, Faith Popcorn, PepsiCo, Samsung, FastCompany, Boeing, Warby Parker among others. Howard was the winner of PR Week’s 30 under 30, and 40 under 40, as well as being selected for the Media Professional of the Year Award twice.