Brand Branded on the Beach

My grandparents pursued a classic American “life’s stages” model for their generation. They had worked hard, then retired in 1964 to a then affordable, little chalet-like retreat in Northern Michigan on Grand Traverse Bay. I have literally thousands of memories from time spent there as a child and I am confident it has been influential on the outcome of who I am today.

One such memory is the first time we had lunch on the beach. Included in the feast was a box of Sun-Maid raisins. What is relevant about this is the specifics of that memory. I vividly recall studying the graphics on the box and thinking “that girl is going to get her fingers pinched”. This memory is so strong that as it drifts down the river of time, it brings with it memories of how clear the sky was that day, the heat of the sand, the smell of the cedar tree’s that loomed in the periphery and how the Sunfish sailboat we were sitting on rocked as we shifted our weight (for those of you new to blogging, click on the image below to enlarge).

Then with a little more cranium data-vault excavating, even more memories can be harvested. The sound of the hardware that the boat made when under sail, the smell from shaving created by whittling cedar twigs from those trees, counting the skips from the stones tossed into the bay.

(the petoskey stone… indigenous to Michigan)

These must have been my grandma’s favorite raisins, we had them often. Or perhaps it was all that was available at the tiny little wood floor grocery store in Atwood which is the host to yet dozens of other experience based memories.

I tell this story to my own kids as often as we have raisins, Sun-Maid or otherwise. The brand has left a brand. In this case the brand made the experience memorable.

These are fond memories fortunately, but it’s worth note that the opposite is equally relevant. Once again, as children, my family had huddled around the TV one Sunday night to watch “The Wonderful World of Disney”. It was in the fall, I know this because it was dark out and we were still up. All of the sudden, we heard our next door neighbor’s screen door slam, which was a concern because they were out of town on vacation. My dad took action, the police were called and sure enough, someone had broken in and stolen all their jewelry. In this case, I remember the brand of flashlight we used as we began our own search while waiting for the police… the experience made the brand memorable. Now, whenever I hear our own screen door slam shut, I go back to that night when we were fighting over who gets to hold the Eveready.

Last week in our office, as an incentive for adhering to a wellness program we have in place, we all received a little box of Sun-Maid raisins, I looked at the label, smiled and went right to the beach there in Eastport, and sat on the deck of that Sunfish (and shed about 42 years).

All of us, regardless of what you do, are confronted almost hourly with opportunities to work with a brand. Whether it’s how you install a pantry wine rack, how you render a drawing for a landscaping design, or how you smile to the cashier in the Target check out line. If you’re not creating a branded product, you’re creating a branded experience. As a colleague once said to me “don’t forget about the You brand.”

How many of you remember the smell of a Volkswagen Beetle… hyacinth in bloom at Easter… a firm handshake… the sound of digging in a bucket of Legos… the sound of Windows 98 coming to life… the feel of a tin Band-Aid box… the taste of a first kiss?

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One thought on “Brand Branded on the Beach

  1. This is a new experience, taking such a positive attitude towards a brand. Some brands do little besides adding to the price. That pays for their advertising and ups the profit.

    I love CocaCola’s nostalgia pictures, even though I drink Coke very rarely (it’s not exactly nutritious). It’s quite interesting to think of the graphics designer producing a package that appeals. When I put it that way, it seems obvious. I guess I’m in the habit of suspicion now. As Andy Rooney says, too many products named Strawberry and Cream contain neither.

    If the raisins came in the old generic white box with plain black lettering, would they provide a similar sense memory?

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