After all the ads have been run and the coupons have been issued, the moment of truth for the 30,000-plus products at the supermarket is when you pluck them off the shelf and plop them in your cart. All the ad budget in the world is meaningless if in this moment, the appeal of the product and its package makes all the difference when you decide to take it – or leave it.
First, there’s the location of the product in the store. Roughly two thirds of our purchasing decisions at the supermarket are impulse buys – impacted by signs, instant coupons, samples, displays and other sales promotion efforts while we walk through the store.
Consumer watchdogs and diet coaches tell us to walk the parameter of the supermarket for the basics (notice how the dairy, meat and bread departments are at the furthest locations) and avoid the aisles and especially endcaps where pricey, sugary products and loss-leading sale items make the most in profit for the company.
But the most fascinating turn of events – as the last gasp of marketing communications takes effect on "aisle seven" -- are the current products that have returned with retro 1970s packaging.
According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, PepsiCo, Procter and Gamble, General Mills and Hostess Brands have stepped back from the dominant computer generated packaging looks of recent years and have returned to simple colors, flat designs and packaging we remember as kids and teens in the 60s and 70s.
Pepsi has returned to retro cans with real sugar as part of the formula, Doritos have reissued their taco-flavor chips from the rock n’ roll era and Cheerios and Trix have nostalgic looks to integrate with the back-to-basics, comfort food interest started with the 2008 recession. Product icons/cultural symbols such as Hostess’ Twinkie the Kid and King Ding Dong are back for another generation to discover too.
And although many of these products have limited runs they are getting noticed and purchased extensively. It is, for the older generation, a nostalgic moment or classic memory when putting the product in the hands. And for the younger consumer, who may have never seen its design before, it is a return to a value-based, authentic, timeless products and experiences.
Why do we embed our reflective experience in some cardboard or plastic? Primarily because along with the ads, company ethics and publicity, the package often is the last chance for a marketer to enhance and solidify the image of the brand. How the package opens, what information can be found there, how distinctive it is on the shelf all contribute to the overall personality we attach to the breakfast foods and soft drinks.
These are the reasons we don’t think of it just as Trix, but the cereal that embodies youth and a long ago breakfast filled with cartoons and a prize inside.