Whooshing It Up In The Arena Culture

I recently ran across a wonderful new phrase for an experience that all of us as marketers would like to create for our customers.  New York Times columnist David Brooks describes “whooshing up” as “the intense elevation (we experience) during the magical moments” in our lives.
The term was actually coined by Hubert Dreyfus of Berkeley and Sean Dorrance Kelly of Harvard in their new book,  “All Things Shining,”which Brooks describes as a “smart, sweeping run through the history of Western philosophy.”

You can click here to read the column, but for now, let’s skip over complexities of self-determination, religion and eternal truth, and get to the really good stuff.

In a world where we have become “spiritually unmoored,” the authors “say that we should have the courage not to look for some unitary, totalistic explanation for the universe. Instead, we should live perceptively at the surface, receptive to the moments of transcendent whooshes.”  We feel these in collective situations – what Brooks calls the “Arena Culture” – capable of creating a “group whoosh,” such as “the sports stadium, the concert hall, the political rally, the theater, the museum and the gourmet restaurant.”

We have all had our private, personal epiphanies, but these high-touch, shared human experiences are much more memorable for many of us. It is one of the reasons we still see films in movie theaters when it’s cheaper and easier to watch them on DVD or pay per view.

It is also something social media will never capture.  Yes, YouTube videos do go viral and the digital realm can facilitate the explosion of word-of-mouth on performers, places, products and experiences. But it’s no “whoosh.”  Are the feelings associated with Twitter and Facebook ever capable of creating an indescribable feeling deep in your gut that creates indelible memories?

No matter what you’ve heard, social media are not a panacea and cannot be expected to play such a role in the marketing mix.   But the exhilaration over new and influential marketing vehicles sometimes obscures this reality.  Moreover, the natural tendency of marketers is to overinflate the importance of their brands. It’s what we live and breathe.  The brand manager’s job, what they are judged by, is the ability to champion his or her brand.  First by capturing more than a fair share of internal resources, and then deploying those resources effectively to build market share with customers. Unfortunately, there are seldom, if ever, whoosh moments for a stain remover.

Still, the whoosh aspiration should never be lost, no matter how mundane the product category.  Passion will always separate the successful from ordinary, paint-by-numbers brands. And the whoosh is the height of passion.

There are very few whoosh brands out there right now, but several do seem to understand the importance of the Arena Culture. That’s why there are Apple Stores and Nike Stores, where brands can be celebrated in a physical setting with their fans.

Maybe this is what Facebook, the brand du jour, should be doing with some of that $500 million they raised this week.  Open a few “Facebook Stores” or coffee bars where some real socializing can occur, or create Facebook events in large venues with music, food and other entertainment.  At least become a major presence at new and established events such as South by Southwest and the Coachella Music Festival.  Put some real faces into Facebook to start and/or nourish off and online relationships.  The same goes for Google.

An old school brand provides a great example of understanding and aspiring to “whoosh.”  Budweiser, along with extensive social media and online efforts, has recently created some of their best advertising in recent memory.

“Grab Some Buds” (“Good Times are Waiting”) directly evokes the both the anticipation and the moment of shared experiences of concerts and ball games.  (See one execution here.) Of course, the commercial itself cannot create the feeling, but it can evoke it and reinforce it when it happens in “real life.”  Of course, having the brew on tap at all these events, with the ubiquitous Bud signage in ballparks and arenas, doesn’t hurt either.

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