By Barry Silverstein for Next Avenue
If you’re a boomer, do you have fond memories of the Saturday morning TV shows that entertained you as a child? Those shows were engaging, but they were also vehicles for brand advertising. Chances are that’s how you first got to know your favorite cereal, soft drink and snack food brands.
"Boomer brands" such as Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, Good Humor ice cream and Hostess Twinkies claim a cherished position in our memory banks. These brands largely influenced what we pressed our parents to purchase, and what we craved as kids. The brands we knew and loved then, we remember to this day.
Of course, many of these childhood brands still exist. To name a few: cereals such as Alpha-Bits, Cheerios, Frosted Flakes, Life; snack foods like Cheetos, M&Ms and Oreos and fast food chains launched during those days, including Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.
In the ‘50s and ‘60s, the modern brand was born. The advertising industry pushed brand management to new heights, creating a raft of well-marketed, strong brands, many of which remained resilient for decades. By the mid-‘60s, nearly half the U.S. population was under 25, and ad agencies didn’t hesitate to target the boomer kids, embracing creativity and innovation — sometimes irreverence and brashness.
So it’s no wonder you have vivid memories of childhood brands and probably still feel an emotional connection to some after all these years.
Why Boomers Remember Brands From Childhood
One reason you may recollect brands from your youth (particularly foods): You associate them with the comfort and security of your childhood home. Nothing beat sitting on the couch, eating a bowl of cereal and milk while you watched Huckleberry Hound or The Lone Ranger.
Childhood brands are linked in your subconscious to a time when you were a happy, carefree youngster.
That’s why they can act as emotional triggers, setting off positive feelings from the past and shielding you from today’s pressing problems. Marketing expert Peter Hubbell explained it this way on Next Avenue: “…a generation of consumers who grew up in an era of unprecedented optimism (the boomers), and is already prone to being positive, is subconsciously bolstering their positive outlook on life every time they recall the most potent memories of their lives.”
Another reason your memory banks light up when you recall a childhood brand: Television, which first appeared in a big way during boomers’ childhood. That’s why boomers were anointed “the TV generation.”
Turns out television was also pretty awesome for brand advertising. There was a real emotional connection between boomers and what they watched on TV. Television shows resonated with young, impressionable minds, allowing kids to fantasize. So some programs for kids cleverly incorporated brand promotions. That Captain Midnight decoder ring? You could only get it if you mailed in Ovaltine proofs of purchase.
Is Remembering Childhood Brands a Good Thing?
As a retired marketing professional, I can tell you that any brand marketer would be giddy with delight to know that you have retained a positive perception of a brand you first learned about as much as half a century ago. There could be no better proof of a brand’s staying power.
But there’s also a dark side: You were an innocent child, being manipulated by brand marketing through a tantalizing new medium. The brands were so tantalizing and integrated into TV shows you couldn’t help but be hooked.
Does that make reminiscing about childhood brands a bad thing? No. In fact, it may actually be good for you. Nostalgia research suggests remembering the past has tangible benefits. Reporting for The New York Times, John Tierney wrote: Nostalgia has been shown to counteract loneliness, boredom and anxiety. It makes people more generous to strangers and more tolerant of outsiders. Couples feel closer and look happier when they’re sharing nostalgic memories. On cold days, or in cold rooms, people use nostalgia to literally feel warmer.”
So recall those childhood brands without guilt. Think happy thoughts about the ones you loved as a kid.
As Alka-Seltzer’s television commercial famously proclaimed, “Try It, you’ll like it.”
This article is based on the new book, Boomer Brands: Iconic Brands that Shaped Our Childhood, by Barry Silverstein, published by GuideWords Publishing.
Barry Silverstein is a boomer, freelance writer and retired direct and brand marketing professional. He is the author of the new book, Boomer Brands: Iconic Brands That Shaped Our Childhood, as well as numerous nonfiction marketing and small business books. He also writes a blog for boomers, HappilyRewired.com.
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