Last week, The New York Times published an article about the latest trend in advertising: comfort marketing. This refers to bringing back old mascots, logos and jingles that were successful in the past. It makes viewers reminisce about the brand and reminds them of when they were first introduced to it – and, presumably, that they liked and trusted it at the time. With a sense of familiarity and history attached to the brand, marketers figure consumers will be more likely to make a purchase.
The article also goes so far as to suggest the economy – and people tightening their purse strings when making shopping decisions – is at least partially to blame for this trend. It primarily cites television advertisements, such as StarKist (tuna fish), Dr. Pepper, Doritos, Uncle Ben’s (rice) and Planter’s. These examples also happen to be mostly grocery store items. Analysts have said that in terms of spending, people are more likely to splurge right now on unnecessary pleasure and recreation items, such as manicures and massages and activities that offer instant gratification. If that’s true, it does stand to reason that shoppers may be scrutinizing their day-to-day purchases more thoroughly, which justifies the extra push to hook them via comfort marketing at this time.
But marketers aren’t just replicating old ads, they’re also modernizing them. One example is the animated Charlie commercials used by StarKist. Originally the premise was “Sorry Charlie,” wherein a tuna was rejected for not tasting good enough to join StarKist. In the new version, loyal customers are seen praising the brand with “Thanks Charlie.” The NYT states that this new twist tested well, and it made sense for the advertisers to move forward in such a way that buyers were now seen interacting with the brand.
The article also draws similarities to the fact that retro TV shows with a modern twist – “Mad Men,” “Pan Am” – are part of the same phenomenon that viewers seem to respond well to right now.
What’s your opinion on comfort marketing? Is it just another fad and a cloying ploy? Or is it a smart move to look to the past to bring an old brand into the future?