In the years that followed, I joined the competitive swim team, took group tennis lessons from the local pro, and even became a pretty good shuffleboard player, which undoubtedly will help me years from now at the retirement community. But what I recall the most about these years are sights, sounds, and smells that became ingrained in my soul, and signified the arrival of the summer season.
On any given day after swim practice, I’d jump in the deep end of the pool, and descend to the bottom of the pool to touch the cobalt blue-colored tiles used to mark the center of each lane used during swim meets. Holding my breath, I’d then try to swim the length of the pool underwater, only popping my head up when I felt my chest tighten up from a lack of oxygen.
And then—the sound of the lifeguard’s whistle, and the shout of “adult swim, kids out,” which was the none-to-subtle method of ensuring that the grown-ups would get a few minutes to cool off sans the splashing that usually accompanied kids in the pool. So, without waiting to dry off, I’d grab my allowance money, and walk (ok, run) up the stairs, and across the grass to the snack bar.
Perfumed by the smell of French fries in the fryer, mixed with the faint odor of over-chlorinated kids, the snack bar was a cramped kitchen with just two service windows to the public. I’d wait my turn in line, trying to avoid the large horseflies circling the various bits of ice cream or candy bars that had fallen to the ground, and carefully ponder my purchase. Should I go for the fries? Maybe a soda? No, I want those Swedish fish—just a penny apiece, which meant I could gorge myself on 50 or so, and still have a dollar left over for a hot dog.
After purchasing my completely unhealthy snack, I’d choose a table without an umbrella so I could warm up in the sun, and survey the green grass of the lawn, the cloudless sky, and the deep blue water of the pool I called home for many years.
So why do I remember these seemingly trivial details about sights, sounds, and smells that, in all honesty, are commonly experienced at nearly all pools around the country today? These details serve as markers of a happy time, place, and experience for me as I grew up, and as such, I place more value on them, and they can trigger a response that goes beyond mere logic.
Some marketers have successfully leveraged the emotional and/or nostalgic connection people have with their products or services. For example, American carmakers Ford, Dodge and Chevy have each tapped into the Baby Boomer market’s affinity for muscle cars, bringing back the Mustang, Challenger and Camaro, respectively, using body shapes that closely resembling the original. And, on a smaller scale, cereal manufacturers have periodically released limited-edition boxes that mimic the original designs from the 1950s and 1960s.
Indeed, the real key to connecting with consumers is to understand what you’re selling on an emotional level, beyond the obvious features and benefits. How do you identify this? Consider surveying your current customers and prospects to better understand how your product makes them feel, and how it relates to them emotionally. Does it bring back memories from the past? Does it conjure a particular time or space in their lives? How does your product “complete” them?
Don’t just send out a basic Internet-based survey. Speak to your customers, and have a real conversation, which will lead to knowledge and insight about your brand and product that you might not have ever considered. Gather and chart these responses, and you should be able to plan and executive a marketing and advertising plan that will tug at the heartstrings, and then have your customers tugging at their wallets.
Indeed, this past weekend, I took my own daughter to our local pool. As we walked through the gates, my nose caught the familiar scent of French fries wafting out over the pool area. In an instant, I was transported back in time to those summers more than 30 years ago. As soon as I was able to fish my daughter out of the pool, we took that short walk up to the snack bar for some Swedish fish and a hot dog.