Monday, 21 March 2011

My Heart Strings Are Attached to My Back Pocket

Emotions are a tricky thing. God knows I have had my moments where I have let my emotions get the best of me and regretted the lack of self control. In general, however, I am a pretty emotional person. Weird right!? Insert hysterical laughter from my lovely friends in Winnipeg, London and Frankfurt. You know who you are!

Never would have thunk it when first meeting me hey? The tough exterior with the chains hanging off me, Ed Hardy branded on every inch of my body, with my Ecko cap on backwards and the gold circle sticker still intact while I claim it was me who started that trend. For those who haven't met me, I kid, I kid.

Speaking of the gold sticker, what's with that anyways? Some sort of brand identity thing? I had this roommate once, and as you can probably tell by the description of my "tough exterior," I was referring to him. One time I had enough of the gold sticker mocking me every time he walked by me. So I tried to take it off saying "Dude, I'm not going out tonight with you if you don't take that sticker off!" He responded with "It's my thing yo!" Yes, he said yo, that's how ghetto of a white boy he was; to which I responded "If you think your 'thing' is on the top of your head, you got serious navigation issues." He wasn't the brightest bulb in the tanning bed to say the least.

Anyways, back to the point. Emotions run deep in our culture and even more so we as consumers are so used to brands tapping into our hedonistic side. Many are not even aware that our emotions are being manipulated and instinctively we buy into what makes us happy.

Take nostalgia for instance. I can honestly say that certain tastes, or sounds, colours or jingles trigger some sort of emotional response from my past. Chamomile tea with milk for instance tastes exactly like the candy cane short bread cookies my Auntie Juanita and I used to make in Saskatchewan when I was little. Then I think about how she used to call me Mr.Twister from the Take Part television series because of course, you guessed it, I was a bit crazy.

But how do companies utilize this useful subconscious response?

Last night I watched the series finale of Big Love which is about a polygamist family struggling to survive in Utah. Over five seasons we have watched the family overcome so many obstacles both within the family and from the community. This past season we watched Bill Paxton become governor and fight to legalize polygamy and ultimately survive an assassination by his arch nemesis. In the last five minutes of the show his neighbour, because of a grudge, ultimately ends Bill’s life. What’s the point you ask? In the last minute, one year after his death, you see how his three wives have evolved. In the scene, two of his wives see the third one off on a three month long journey to South America. As the wife is about to leave, she stops and runs back crying and embraces both wives. This is particularly significant since the three had a hard time co-existing and maintaining relationships.

I cried. Really hard. I told you I was emotional, but not that emotional. I rarely cry. Maybe it was because I have been really run down from so much work and lack of sleep, but I really let it all out at 1am. Throw in a few brands through product placement like Pepsi, McDonalds or Kleenex into that episode and those companies would have made a fortune off of me that moment. I would have gotten up, walked to McDonalds, grabbed a Pepsi from 7/11 and stole a bunch of Kleenex from my roommate.

But why did I cry? It wasn’t a particularly sad moment in comparison to everything else in the show. I didn’t even cry when Bill died. I think it is because of nostalgia. If I think back to when I first saw the show in 2005, my life was completely different. I have ridden on the coat-tails of this family for five seasons and shared in their triumphs and failures. I felt just as relieved as they felt to finally be at peace and have survived the journey over these past few years. I am still choking up at the thought of that moment as I write this!

Now, imagine had companies placed products within that episode, like it had other episodes, what the implications would be on me buying their products? I would have attached the way I felt in that episode to their products and when faced with a choice between products at the store, may be inclined to lean towards their products in my purchase due to an emotional recall. I, in particular, work from memory by the way a situation or person made me feel. This is a great tool for studying, and particularly helps with my acting which I do on the side.

One particular campaign that I have come across in recent times is the up and coming OPA! Athenos campaign targeting younger generation with a humorous nod to traditional Greek grandmas. Taken from the report, “The campaign is centered on ATHENOS products that are made simply, with respect for traditional ingredients, and yiayia’s approval of them. Creatively, it’s brought to life through scenes where blunt, yet relatable Greek yiayias with old-school mentalities share unsolicited opinions of modern situations.”

Here is a description of the commercials:

·         ATHENOS hummus spots include:

o    Party” - An announcer interrupts Michelle who is serving ATHENOS Hummus to her party guests. When he asks yiayia what she thinks about the party food choice, yiayia instead comments unfavorably on Michelle’s attire.

o    Family” - An announcer interrupts a man who is making an afternoon snack of ATHENOS Hummus for his kids. When he asks yiayia what she thinks about his snack food choice, yiayia instead expresses her disapproval of the fact that in this family the woman works and the man stays at home.

·         ATHENOS Greek yogurt spot includes:

o    Morning” - An announcer interrupts a young couple having a breakfast of ATHENOS Greek yogurt. When he asks yiayia what she thinks about their breakfast food choice, yiayia instead shares her opinion on the fact that this unmarried couple lives together.

I think this campaign, while funny, can touch anyone because every grandma is somewhat the same: proud, opinionated, always right never wrong, nosey, and always in the way. In one fashion or the other, every grandma displays at least one of these characteristics no matter how great you think your grandma is! The point is, Athenos is targeting its consumer in an interesting way; it is not only relying on the comedic and identification aspects, but also nostalgia. Each consumer has had their own experiences with their grandmother, and more than likely it has been in childhood. But the most appealing part of this nostalgia is in the comfort and familiarity. Athenos is targeting a younger generation in their 20’s early 30’s who are starting their own families after post-secondary. By establishing a relationship using nostalgic strategies, Athenos will gain the loyalty from their new customers based on making products the traditional, healthy way like a grandmother would make. Because in the end, you can always trust your grandmother!

Emotions, nostalgia, they both play a significant role in my consumer life and I can admit I am directly influenced by both. Are you?

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