Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Nostalgia… When Times Were Better

General Mills, Target Stores Play on Consumers' Nostalgia

Retro Designs of Their Youth Appeal to Stressed Shoppers' Desire for Comfor

Ahhhh… sugary comfort food.

If food can be comforting, how about packaging?

With consumers embracing old-world classics such as casserole, some marketers are trying to get on the bandwagon by trotting out some old-school style.

Just as cold cereals sales take a traditional dive in cold winter months. This could be the start of a short gain in sales while lifting the spirits of Gen Y parents and Late Boomers who are feeling the effects of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) with a touch RAD (Recession Affective Disorder), okay I made that RAD thing up.

General Mills has given Target Stores a month-long exclusive on retro box designs for some of its best-selling cereals, Cheerios, Honey Nut Cheerios, Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs and Trix.

The package-food company is giving away T-shirts with the old designs as part of the deal. Consumers with five proof-of-purchase labels will be entitled to a free shirt at cerealwear.com. Consumers who would rather just buy one can go to the site and spend $5 to don a defunct Mills design.

The promotion began in Target stores Feb. 15, and runs through March 21. The box designs were taken from General Mills archives and given minor tweaks, such as updated product shots. But for the most part, the designs are the same, with original games and activities.

"Our brands have a history that spans many young adults' childhoods," Kerry DeLaney, associate marketing manager-Big G Cereals, said in a statement. "The retro-box concept is a fun and unique way to create a package design that appeals to Target's guests."

Although the promotion is still running, General Mills spokeswoman Shelly Dvorak said the company is very pleased with initial results. "We have even seen blog posts by consumers talking about the retro boxes," she added.

General Mills has avoided any traditional or direct marketing, leaving the heavy lifting of promotion to bloggers. Andrew Gibbs at TheDieLine.com wrote, "My initial reaction was one of refreshing surprise -- what a pleasant treat for someone like me, who appreciates the aesthetics of yesteryear." He added, however, that such designs may have limited appeal to children, the products' ostensible consumers. "Perhaps the obvious conclusion is that these retro designs are aimed at adults who would otherwise not buy anything promoted by a cartoon rabbit," he said.

Dan Ochwat, editor of Shopper Marketing Magazine, said General Mills and Target are likely looking for a short spike in business, because the promotional window is so small. But exclusive deals certainly have cachet. "Exclusivity is what they're all looking for now," he said.

Virginia Valkenburgh, senior VP of Cannondale Associates, a Wilton, Conn.-based marketing consultancy, noted that Target is known for seeking out exclusive deals. She described the retro promotion as particularly current. "Consumers want to be comforted, and they are cooking and eating more at home", she said.

"It's going to make the moms and the kids feel good," she said.

Yup, I'm crazy for my Cocoa Puffs!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting article. The main generational target of this nostalgia marketing is Generation Jones, born 1954-1965, between the Boomers and Generation X. Google Generation Jones, and you'll see it’s gotten a ton of media attention, and many top commentators from many top publications and networks (Washington Post, Time magazine, NBC, Newsweek, ABC, etc.) now specifically use this term.

Several top ad agencies have spent significant resources developing targeting strategies for GenJones. Jonesers are a very appealing target for advertsisers because there are a lot of them (26% of all US adults), they are affluent (highest disposable income in US) and surprisingly persuadable.

It is important to distinguish between the post-WWII demographic boom in births vs. the cultural generations born during that era. Generations are a function of common formative experiences of its members, not the fertility rates of its parents. Many experts now believe it breaks down this way:

DEMOGRAPHIC boom in babies: 1946-1964
Baby Boom GENERATION: 1942-1953
Generation Jones: 1954-1965

Here is a recent op-ed about GenJones as the new generation of leadership in USA TODAY:

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