The Nostalgia Factor

This past week I took a walk down memory lane seeing Canadian artist Corey Hart’s final concert in Montreal, Quebec. Corey Hart is not an artist that people talk about anymore, other than to say ‘yeah, I used to love him as a teenager’ when a song is occasionally played on the radio. Yet, there I was with one of my besties, belting out every song along with him, word for word, not missing a beat – just like old friends who easily fall back into a rhythm. Some songs made me a bit teary but all of them made me nostalgic for my youth.

Nostalgia is a powerful thing. It evokes feelings of happiness and rose-coloured memories of a time when everything seemed simpler – even if it really wasn’t.

In marketing, nostalgia is designed to trigger the positive feelings that we associate with the past. The reason this type of marketing is so effective is because it’s easier to put a positive spin on the past than on the present. With our current social and economic climate still hovering in uncertainty, people want to recreate the feelings of security that the past seems to offer – and they are ready to open their wallets for it.

At the same time, for today’s youth, retro is considered cool. (Yay! I’m cool.) Look at the products we have today: headphones have shifted back to the ginormous look from 70s; acid wash jeans are in fashion magazines again (why!!!??) and new artists are mashing up retro songs to make their name (*cough* PitBull).

The good news is that while our wallets might be taking a hit, research on nostalgia has shown that nostalgic thinking actually increases self-esteem and feelings of optimism. I agree. For a brief moment, I was once again a carefree, invincible 18-year-old as we walked back to the hotel after the concert wearing our sunglasses at night.

The Power of Scent

Scent branding can be a powerful extension of a brand’s existing marketing strategy. For decades, it’s been a successful tactic for bakeries, popcorn stands and fast-food retailers. I dare you to pass by a Cinnabon or even a KFC and not have your mouth water!

Scent can affect your mood, your memory, in fact, your entire sense of well-being. We associate scents with people, places and specific memories because our olfactory nerves connect directly with our brains, where scent impulses create virtually instant memories. Case in point, to this day I will always associate the smell of Calvin Klein’s Obsession cologne with my hubby – even though he hasn’t worn it in over 15 years – because it’s what he wore when he first came-a-courting.

As scent is tied to memory and feelings, it’s not surprising that marketers and the like have been trying to cash in on this concept by adding smell to our media experience. In fact this has been happening through trial and error for over 50 years! In 1959/1960, competitors Hans Laube and Charles Weiss introduced to ‘Smell-O-Vision’ and ‘AromaRama’ respectively to North America movie goers. The principle was simple, movie goers experience would be enhances by experiencing the same scents as the characters on screen.

While the concept never really took off, researchers today are revisiting the concept to bring the power of scent back but this time to our personal media devices. Tokyo University researchers Haruka Matsukura, Hiroshi Ishida, and Tatsuhiro Yoneda, created a prototype of a “smelling screen” that they debuted at the 2013 IEEE Virtual Reality Conference. (IEEE is a professional association for the advancement of technology.) The “smelling screen” features fans on both sides of a computer screen and uses hydrogel pellets aka “aroma chips”, which are heated to create different scents to accompany content.

fb-shareNot to be outdone, a Tokyo company called Scentee has an app for that! Scentee’s app is used in combination with an add-on for smart phones that plugs into the headphone jack that releases scents on demand. For example, you can set it to give a burst of scent when you get a text from someone, or even LIKE on Facebook. They’re calling it a “new way of communication with aroma” as you can send an apology text and the scent of rose could be released (provided the receiver happens to have the rose scent disc inserted). I’m not sure how this will translate for marketers as the choice of scent is up to the user, but if you want to give it a go, a Scentee starter kit will run you about $70USD… and for an extra $7.50 you can have them toss in a bacon disc! Mmmmm bacon.


The Oscars: Product Placement

The subject of the selfie is hot, hot, hot again what with Ellen DeGeneres and a group of A-List celebs snapping one at this year’s Oscars.  Posted to Twitter, the group selfie was so popular that within about 16 hours it had been retweeted more than 3.4 million times – almost crashing Twitter.


Interestingly, this seemingly spontaneous moment was slightly planned as Samsung was an official sponsor of the Oscars. According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, Samsung spent an estimated $20 million on ads to run during breaks in the broadcast. However, Ellen playing with the Galaxy Note 3 during the award show was an additional paid marketing tactic that you may remember called product placement.


Thinking back, the first time I can say there was a noticeable product in a movie would have been E.T. with Reeses Pieces. (Elliott used them to lure ET out of hiding if you’ve forgotten.) Not that I was old enough to realize what it was, but at that time product placement was a relatively new and not a widely used marketing tactic. However, it’s safe to say that this when brand placement marketing really took off. This 1982 Time Magazine article reported that the sales of Reeses Pieces shot up 65% after the movie. Here’s an interesting fact: M&M was actually Steven Spielberg’s first choice for E.T.’s favourite candy, but they declined as they didn’t want their candy to be associated with an alien. #Regret

Today, product placement is so pervasive we hardly even notice it – a Pepsi can here, an iPhone there. We don’t question when these things appear, as these are usually things that we use in our daily lives; so it just seems natural that characters would use them too. Then there are others that we just don’t give a second thought because they are so well written into the script. Can you imagine the movie Cast Away without Wilson?

Well the placement seems to have certainly paid off for Samsung in the buzz factor.  Kontera, a social media tracking company, was quoted in above mentioned the Wall Street Journal article reporting that Samsung was getting about 900 mentions a minute on social media! Only time will tell if this will translate into product sales.

What if Telekinesis WAS REAL?

What if Telekinesis WAS REAL? How would you react? Check out this hidden camera experiment set up in a New York City coffee shop that captures the reactions of unsuspecting customers as they witness a telekinetic event as part of a promotion for the movie Carrie.

While there has been some discussion as to how ethical it was to scare the b-Jesus out of random people, the video itself is amazing! In my books, THIS is an awesome PR stunt and officially added into my list of Most Memorable PR Stunts. Let’s all aim this high in our creativity!

Let me know if you agree.

Memorable PR Stunts

Last month I wrote about Miley Cyrus’ brilliant PR stunting. This got me thinking about other memorable PR stunts. The Britney-Madonna kiss at the 2003 VMAs.  Janet Jackson’s famous wardrobe malfunction at the Superbowl in 2004. (Yup it’s been that long)

And these great ones!

  1. RedBull Stratos
    In 2012, Felix Baumgartner became the first person to break the sound barrier. And it was awesome. Need I say more? Best.PR.Stunt.Ever. Watch the jump here!
  2. Abercrombie & Fitch
    This one makes me lol! Abercrombie & Fitch did a reverse endorsement offering to pay Mike “The Situation” Sorrention, from the TV show Jersey Shore, to NOT wear any of its clothing.  They released a statement saying “Mr. Sorrentino’s association with our brand could cause significant damage to our image”. Then they sold t-shirts that said “The Fituation”. (The Situation then sued them for defamation of character…)
    The Fituation Tee
  3. Diamond Shreddies
    Of my favourite PR campaigns was Kraft Foods’ launch of “Diamond Shaped” Shreddies, a square-shaped Shreddie rotated by 45 degrees, turning it into a diamond shape. Real-life market research videos showed people found the diamond shape to be “better,” “crunchier,” and “more flavourful.” Here’s a great Ted Talk by Rory Sutherland on creating intangible value.
  4. The Blair Witch Project
    Remember that movie? Remember how it was promoted as a real documentary and we ALL talked about it? (Then we all went to see it and got motion sickness.)
  5. Calendar Girls
    Ever see the movie Calendar Girls? It was based on a PR stunt by the Women’s Institute in the UK whose members posed nude for a calendar to raise money for leukemia research. The sold a ton… obviously.
  6. The Artist Formerly Known as Prince
    In 1993, Prince announced that he would be changing his name… to a symbol that was unpronounceable.
    prince-ultimate prince symbol