Peanut butter sandwiches with strawberry jam.
Alfalfa sprouts in salads.
Patchouli stick incense.
Hand-made, multi-colored candles.
A silver peace symbol as a necklace.
Stained glass lamps.
Faded, worn blue jeans and old cowboy boots.
These are the tastes, smells, sights, and textures of Baby Boomer coming-of-age memories.
These were not just objects extracted from the montage of their everyday lives back then; these were their icons, suggesting more transcendental purposes.
Natural living. Higher consciousness. Abundant health. Artistic expression. Heightened sensuality. Spirituality. Sexual healing. Laid-back comfort. Anti-authoritarian sentiments.
These material objects came to represent a more integrated life, greater focus, higher awareness, and spiritual well being.
Boomers intentionally added meaning beyond mere utilitarian purpose to the tastes, sounds, smells, and textures of their daily lives. Some journeyed to alternative realities through drug trips to discover extraordinary meaning in mundane, everyday objects and experiences. Some natural experiences of discovery became punctuation marks by virtue of novelty. Boomers were young then, and the world was still fresh.
As Boomers reach the 50+ and 60+ stages of life, these powerful images and experiences from youth gain renewed power when employed wisely. Boomers sometimes choose to reconnect with these icons—their mythology—to re-experience the freshness of those discoveries, at once simple in idea but complex in meaning and interpretation.
If you know the triggers to best achieve a heightened experience of your product or service, employ them.
Don’t just display your new bagel toaster; set the stage of experience. Replicate a famous rock album cover by juxtaposing with your machine a freshly toasted sandwich, brimming with chunky peanut butter and lusty strawberry jam.
Don’t just show a new home for sale, vacuous and void of furniture. Rather, before the next tour with empty nesters, light some glowing candles and a stick of sandalwood incense to add warmth to its rooms.
Don’t just gather political supporters in the name of social justice. Bring out yellow daisies, white doves, and peace symbols.
This is not to suggest that you should trot out sensual experiences from the sixties and seventies as blatant and obvious attempts to manipulate. Those who can talk the talk but did not walk the walk have done this too many times, and rather badly.
This iconographic dance is along a fine line.
Marketers often make the mistake that an advertisement should offer literal, and therefore, stereotypical reference objects about the group it is targeting. This can lead to a message that speaks down to rather than includes the target audience.
Playing the icons with the wrong tone or in the wrong context can suggest manipulation or condescension, somewhat with the same result as when an adult tries to use teenage slang and then fails to understand the subtleties of an expression.
Creative integration of those youthful icons into the experience of your product or service, in a way that does not summon conscious attention or suggest imprecise understanding, can reach into both the deepest wells of collective experience and many cherished remembrances.
Certainly, you are playing the nostalgia card by evoking these icons, as others have done with every generation’s peculiar cultural lexicon of foods, fashion, entertainment, and values. But the key to doing it well is the art with which you show—rather than tell—the story.
The objects of Boomer youth are the embodiment of stories about discovery, relationships, values and dreams—icons. Understand the objects contextually, and you will be closer to understanding their hearts.
Once you crack this code, then your product will become the priority, not just another discretionary choice.