Woodstock Matters

Woodstock coincided with my entrance into a Franciscan novitiate on Long Island.  Not exactly the typical Age of Aquarius response to Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin"... But a response nonetheless.  Woodstock and all it represents was a part of me and my generation and it still is. Woodstock matters.

Like so many moments in history, Woodstock came to represent something larger than itself, something that has endured: the sense that America and Americans should and could be even better.

It wasn't just flower children getting on board with this message, it was people like me, a blue collar kid from Queens who thought he had a religious vocation and wanted to make the world a better place through a religious life.

Woodstock was about saying "Yes, we can" long before Barack Obama was on the scene.

And it still is.

As far as I was concerned, the concert itself was a sideshow that came to represent much more.  It reminded America of its inherent optimism and bright future.  It was a generational statement that said: "we're going to do things differently than our parents."

That statement has rung true for conservatives and liberals alike.  We all did things a lot different and the America we live in now -- for better and for worse-- is the result.

That's why forty years later with the big anniversary approaching (August 15), we're still talking about Woodstock (and merchandisers and events promoters are selling Woodstock).

People can lament all the merchandising and promotion, but the marketer in me -- the idealistic, Woodstock-shaped real marketer who still believes we should always try to make things better through our chosen profession whatever that happens to be-- knows that a marketer doesn't create needs, he or she satisfies needs.  You can't sell people things that they don't already want to buy on some level.

And right now many people want to "buy" a piece of Woodstock.

It's natural for people to want tangible things to remember major cultural events.  Hey, there's even room for the Jimi Hendrix air freshener.

More important, I think people also want to understand what Woodstock meant for their lives and for America, and, even more important than this, where we all go from here.

And remember, things are always easier to understand when you keep marketing and branding in mind.

John Tantillo is a marketing and branding expert based in New York City.