With changing habits and interests, we’ve been hearing a lot about how retail is moving toward being “experiential.” This is also leading many brands to get creative in how they connect with families, and that means creating the experiences themselves. For the folks at Whirlpool Corporation, that meant a fresh approach to their World of Whirlpool in Chicago, now open to the public as a new consumer experience center. At the media preview this week, I had the opportunity to experience it first-hand, and my immediate thought is that this is exactly what companies need to be doing because it’s going to allow the general public to learn in ways that have in many cases been limited to media or expensive courses. Whirlpool is going well beyond the typical appliance showroom by teaching “life hacks” and culinary literacy that will help people save time, save money, and most importantly – improve the time spent with family.
Experts from brands such as Whirlpool, Maytag and KitchenAid are on-hand for a variety of experiences (check here for schedules) and tutorials such as the best way to brew coffee at home; the key to perfecting zoodles; how to extend the life of your produce; how to outsmart the peskiest of stains; and more. You can learn how to make simple and delicious meals; how to wash more than dishes in your dishwasher; and some incredible things you can do with a stand mixer. And they’re just getting started. During my visit, I became a volunteer participant in a stain removal tutorial with Maytag. I stained a fresh white t-shirt with my initials – “JZ” – using an ink pen. Then we had to get it out!
For the launch, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was in the house for the ribbon cutting, while Chef Andrew Zimmern was on-hand to whip-up his Floating Dragon Dumplings (which were delicious). Zimmern’s presentation was fascinating on multiple levels, but something I really connected with is that he said “food is the new rock,” equating working a kitchen to being in a band – everyone playing their part to wow the crowd. He also shared some words about his late friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain (read Andrew’s excellent piece at Variety) and the importance of discussing mental health issues in the food world – and beyond (something I’ve written about as well).
One of the most interesting factors is that those who choose to visit the center will not be pushed into a hard sell for anything. In fact, they won’t be asked to buy anything at all. It’s not a showroom, so nothing is for sale – though if you see something you like, they can certainly direct you to a retailer. As Zimmern pointed out, “Sometimes big companies get a bad rap and aren’t recognized for the good that they do.” That sentiment applies not just to Whirlpool, but to other companies I’ve covered on occasion here on The Rock Father Magazine. At the end of the day, it’s all about improving the quality of life by connecting people with information that has real value.
The World of Whirlpool experience center is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. To sign up for workshops as available, sign up in advance via the official site.
Bonus: After seeing all of the incredible things you can do with a KitchenAid stand mixer, I really need to add one to our kitchen arsenal here at Rock Father HQ. Some of the attachments available open up so many new possibilities…