Reader be wary: Andy Rooney-esque diatribe ahead.
I subscribe to the Confectionery News. It’s an industry rag that caters to the the folks who make your treats. It’s not actually a rag. It is a website. Each day my inbox receives a hearty helping of news on the wonderful advances in the confectionery world, untold promises, and exposés of sweets research. Here is a sample of headlines:
- ‘Dangerous conflicts of interest’ mar soft drinks obesity research?
- Magic Choc personalized candy toy outpaces big brands in Xmas run-up
- Hard and sweet: The elusive candy promise
- Mondelez aims to master the ‘black arts’ of chocolate depositing
One particular headline stood out recently:
According to the article, “Nestlé UK has put together a collection of historical packaging and posters of its Rowntree brand designed to help patients diagnosed with dementia bring back happy memories.”
At first blush, this sounds really great. A unique way to help dementia patients flex their mind muscles. Just pull those old ads out and watch forgetful folks remember when they used to buy delicious Rowntree Fruit Clear Gums for a nickel a box.
Then on second thought it sounds creepy as hell.
It’s like ‘reminisce therapy‘, which we do naturally, shuffling through old memories to keep the mind limber. And while Nestle says they have been ‘inundated with requests’ for this from the Alzheimer’s Association and others, somehow it feels like they’re extending the branding exercise to the old and infirm. A strange attempt to keep a brand ‘top of mind’ even when the end is right around the corner.
This whole thing just sounds so lonely. Can’t we figure out something else to jog people’s memory other than some crappy chocolate bar? Like paddle balls and catching bullfrogs, or rotary dial phones and crack the whip? It feels like some creepy dystopian future with brand-sponsored geriatric therapists dropping a ‘Chocoroc!’ into age-addled minds.
Then again, if I’m 87 and someone shows me an ad for Peppermint Beechies gum, I’ll probably remember those brightly colored, tiny boxes at the Roundy’s checkout that held two little pieces of candy-coated gum. And how I slipped a pack into the pocket of my blue cotton jacket with the faux-wool lining while Mom was loading up groceries onto the conveyor.
And the guilt will come oozing back.
And I’ll remember how I sat there at the top of the first flight of the creaky old stairs chewing my gum and knowing I committed some irreparable injustice as minty fresh became bitter and acrid. And I never told mom and I feared for my soul like a good Catholic boy.
On second thought, yes, this idea of showing retro packaging to old folks is creepy.