What sells better — the future or the past?

February 14, 2011

Is this the future or the past?

Here’s what I am pondering today.  In terms of connecting with a consumer’s emotions, what works better — pointing to the future or the past?

I’m 48 (albeit a 10 year old boy trapped in man’s body) which puts me a little behind the line in terms of baby boomers and a little ahead of the curve for Gen X.  But I’ve noticed over the past several years that many advertisers are reaching back into my childhood for inspiration.

The music of my youth, classic toys like slinkys and key moments in my life’s history seem to crop up in TV spots, print ads and headline references.

On the flip side, many advertisements promise us a better future, thanks to their product or service.  From the his and her outdoor tubs thanks to Cialis or the joy of an engagement accepted via Kay’s Jewelers — we do love the pictures they paint.

Do we react more strongly to memories of days gone by or the promises of days not yet experienced?  And which makes us pull out our wallets?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic.  Which do you react to more strongly?

I got thinking about this idea after reading Harry Beckwith’s most recent post over at Psychology Today. (read it here) about progress.  I began to wonder if it was the emotion of the future’s promise or the actual realization that mattered most to us.

Speaking of Harry — I have 2 copies of his new book Unthinking  that I highly recommended last week to give away.  I’ll do a random drawing among the comments on this post… so don’t be shy, weigh in.

The past or the future — which one drives right to the wallet and why?

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