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Flashback on Aisle Seven

When a brand's packaging and nostalgia meet at the supermarket.

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.  

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Bob Koenig June 19, 2011 at 02:46 AM
Yes, packaging can hit us right in the nostalgic area, too. I did enjoy the vintage cereal boxes...I happen to have a collection of vintage cereal boxes too...but these new ones will be a perfect addition.
Lauren B. Lev June 22, 2011 at 03:48 PM
What's really wonderful about these items is they almost get a second life -- or a "special edition"-type status that gets shelf space in a tough retail environment. Does your collection include Quisp? (I think I have the correct spelling for this Quaker Oats cereal.) I have seen this product recently reintroduced too...

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