Magazine article The American Prospect

The Experience Gap

Magazine article The American Prospect

The Experience Gap

Article excerpt

An IBM executive brief from 2008 asks, "Do individuals feel like your brand is relevant to their lifestyle? ... Or, as they wander from store to store, do your potential customers forget your brand as it blurs in their minds with those of competitors?" The solution? Immersive retail: a "memorable, interactive and emotional" experience full of "personalized dialogues." It's "more about involving the customer than it is about the merchandise."

Taking advice from IBM at a time when every coffeehouse in Brooklyn is full of hipsters pecking at Mac PowerBooks might not seem like the best idea. But the IBM brief does help to explain Barack Obama's popularity in 2008--in fact, it could have been inspired by Obama's presidential run. Democrats and progressives--especially young people who had never been involved in politics before--were taken with the entire Obama experience, not just a series of campaign promises.

Just two years later, everyone agrees that Obama's party is having trouble "involving the customer." These days, the Tea Party is the political movement that offers its members a thrilling collective experience. Democrats bracing for disappointing results in the midterm election cite "the enthusiasm gap"--the fact that conservatives are palpably more excited about politics right now than liberals are. What happened to the droves of young people who were such avid Obama supporters in 2008? Writing in The Nation about a month before the midterms, Chris Hayes gave a succinct explanation for the gap: "The people with the most faith in the president and the Democratic Party are the hardest hit by the continuing economic disaster." If, though, as the IBM brief posits, it's not the quality of the merchandise that matters--the lack of a public option in the health-care bill, the failure to pass immigration reform or repeal "don't ask, don't tell," the ongoing stagnation of the economy--then it all comes down to re-creating the "memorable, interactive, and emotional" experience that was the 2008 campaign.

Obama was once pretty good at this. He was hopey, changey, positive. He wasn't just against Bush; he was for something! And not just good policies, like ending the Iraq War, but creating a different kind of government, one that's accessible and harmonious. More important than all of that, he was new. Not another old white guy. A wheat-pasted Shephard Fairey poster instead of a stars-and-stripes yard sign. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.