Narcotic of Nostalgia

imageOn CBS Sunday this morning I saw an interesting piece about the use of Icons. Most of these were the icons of yesteryear. Some are being brought back and re-animated (literally in the case of Alka Seltzer’s Speedy). Ostensibly to help sell more stuff. Capitalism at it’s finest.

What is the Value of the “Narcotic of Nostalgia”

A memorable line in the piece was that there is a “Narcotic of Nostalgia” and I think it was spot on. When I see an Icon from my past --- The MTV on the Moon guy, Poppin' Fresh or Tony the Tiger it brings back memories and sparks a sense of nostalgia. If you want to see the segment click here.

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The Narcotic of Nostalgia works for tag lines too

When you hear the following … Do you know what comes next?

  • “Fill it to the Rim with ____”
  • “Plop Plop Fizz Fizz … Oh, what a ____”
  • “Please don’t squeeze the _____.”

I do. I’m guessing you do to. These jingles and these icons have left an indelible mark on my psyche. Advertising works. I think there is a Narcotic of Nostalgia in play here.

This is also true for music from “my” generation. I’ve heard The Psychedelic Furs, The Smiths (Morrissey) and The Clash being used to sell cars, clothes and ultimately memories. Again, there is a Narcotic of Nostalgia in play here.

I liked the way the CBS Sunday segment described icons:

Icons are characters and they have stories attached to them. Icons have set expectations within our minds and are a powerful tool for advertisers.

imageWho Remembers these Icons?

  • The Noid
  • Mr. Peanut
  • Speedy (Alka Seltzer)
  • Poppin' Fresh
  • imageTony the Tiger
  • Charlie the Tuna 
  • Quaker Oats
  • Michelin Man (He’s 113 years old)

Should we call them Nostalgicons? (Wait … I think I just made up a word.)

What’s Next?

Will these icons make it big in other parts of the world? I think these are very US centric icons. Growing up in the US I’m not sure if these icons translate to other parts of the world.

The reality is that most consumers do not live in the US. Will these icons translate well to consumers in Europe, Asia, and Africa? The US has 330M people with a lot of buying power, but the rest of the world has 6B+ people --- with a lot of future buying power.

As a point of comparison – the US GDP is $14.6 Trillion and China is at $5.7 Trillion. These are important numbers, but I think icons are mostly aligned with impulse purchases --- pizzas, peanuts and the inevitable pain reliever (Sir Speedy)

What do you think?

  • What are your most memorable icons?
  • What icons resonate in regions outside the US?
  • Do Icons and Jingles make you buy?

Drop a comment here with your thoughts.

Image Credits: Dominos Pizza, Alka Seltzer, MTV, Kellogg’s, Pillsbury

Characters and who created them: Poppin' Fresh (Burnett); Tony the Tiger and Charlie the Tuna (both drawn by Don Keller)