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Guest Times: The unforgettable world of ‘Amnesia Marketing’

Shivaji Dasgupta takes us to the world of ‘Amnesia Marketing’ which is concerned only with products and services that were directly experienced by us in our growing-up years. There is opportunity for marketers in this

Delhi | March 27, 2017

Shivaji-Dasgupta Shivaji Dasgupta

You will be certainly familiar with the world of ‘Retro Marketing’ smartly resurrecting a set of valued experiences from a previous era. Usually read in books, seen in movies or witnessed in childhood or youth in the actions or anecdotes of others. Welcome now to the world of ‘Amnesia Marketing’, an extrapolation of the above, concerned only with products and services that were directly experienced by us in our growing-up years. They were sometimes happy and often unpleasant but always an integral part of our journey. So much so that we are now incorrigibly keen to enjoy them temporarily and even pay an unreasonable premium in the process. Of course only when we are woken up by provocative possibilities that revive the hidden memories.


Every customer tends to view brands from either a Journey Mindset or a Destination Mindset. When one is compelled to use a certain set of brands due to affordability and availability, the attitude is usually wistfully negative. Imagine the era of Ambassador cars, Proline t-shirts, Doordarshan, HMT and Weston TV sets. In an experience context, that would be overcrowded buses, power failures, cramped hostel rooms or minimal choice on the dining table or retail shelves. At that time they seemed deplorable and the prospect of moving on a brighter and better world too attractive to possibly ignore. In due course, with both immigration and liberalisation, that better world did arrive with a wide plethora of options, signalling the onset of the Destination Mindset. Quite suddenly the enforced brands that were grudgingly part of the journey take on a certain romantic hue that certainly did not exist at the point of original consumption. We seek them out actively and wish to coat them with affection and meaning that did not exist.


I have noticed this tendency even in the case of cities of origin, especially Calcutta from where I emanate. For the longest possible time, most like me plotted fiendishly to flee the place to a brighter and better world. When that goal was happily achieved, the lust to revisit many such ‘fait accompli’ experiences emerged like a tornado. Tram journeys, kathi rolls, Kalighat temple, power failures, sweaty single-screen theatres and many local brands become immensely desirable. This pattern is true for school and college hostels as well, especially during the much-vaunted reunions that occur with alarming frequency these days. Canteen food that was loathed with such intensity becomes pop-up gourmet easily surpassing the comparable commercial experience. Professors responsible for limitless agonies are considered to be surrogate saints incapable of hurting a fly. This happens when we start viewing the rigour of the journey from the comfort of the destination or at least the imminent destination. The compulsion and restriction of another era becomes an aspiration of the present time. It cannot be described accurately as ‘Nostalgia’ because the unconditional point-in-time positivity of that word is often not applicable in these cases.


That is why ‘Amnesia Marketing’ must step in to take advantage of this opportunity in many categories through a focused strategy of targeting the Destination Customer with a renewed context of his journey brands. Maggi does this successfully through certain engagement initiatives as does Paper Boat in its remarkable streak of ‘amnesia’ innovations. Old Monk Rum can be considered to be a perfect example of this syndrome as the timeless lens for viewing the magic of the journey with friends. Exceptional opportunities exist for brands in many categories from hospitality to F&B to apparel to tourism to even technology, to cater to a mature wealthy segment with the motivation and money to spend purely for emotional reasons.


To take advantage of the reunion, circuit hotels in university destinations can create a special ‘dormitory wing’ with facilities that are competent but minimal compared to high-end luxury. They will be certainly exciting for 40-plus success stories wanting to re-create a slice of their developing years. Phantom Cigarettes can launch a gourmet version with handcrafted packaging as a cheeky but glamorous option for those wanting to step off the real thing. Black & white TV sets designed like the furniture pieces of the 1970s are certain to command a significant premium, used perhaps in the man’s den to watch old movies. In Calcutta, Tourist Trams deliberately packed to capacity can appeal to the winter tourists who seek to relive the standing experience of yore. A Hostel Classic Buffet Lunch in a five-star or perhaps a concept restaurant that serves only hostel fare has the potential to score. Especially in the format of a pub that caters to the recurring reunions that are so common. The Railways can consider leasing second-class bogeys for the reunion circuit for a hefty premium that combines exclusivity with authenticity.


A ready-to-eat series of ‘Kadi Pakori’ replicating hostel fare will be certain to make money. No designer has yet attempted a designer take on school uniforms giving the compulsory attire a gourmet air. I mean taking off from the colours of specific schools and not just generally old-world. Including a laptop bag inspired by the traditional haversack of yore and original school black boots and canvas shoes finding newer meaning in an era of abundant choice. Imagine then a series of classic transistors adorning dens and pubs urging viewers to becoming listeners once more.


The opportunities you will agree go way beyond just flavour variants in fruit juice. Especially in the era of Digital Marketing where amplification of such experiences can be addictive.

An interesting addendum of this world will be the Target Group Focus of the 40-plus generation which is certainly significantly occupying the Destination Mindset; a refreshing change from the youth-obsessed marketing of this era. In potential, it is very remunerative as this constituency is certainly more affluent than any other. It also will tap in to a merging sociological syndrome that seems to affect those in this age cohort. We constantly feel forcibly separated from our roots in an experiential context due to rapid progression and the rule of technology. Amnesia experiences can keep us plugged to the origins in a shortlived but meaningful manner, like all good marketing influences beneficial in a societal sense and not just transactional.


While Retro Marketing thrives by capitalising usually on a second-hand experience, Amnesia Marketing builds on real first-hand experiences. The customer is lovingly induced to view the partners of the journey from the lens of the destination. Brand owners can profit easily by designing experiences connected to their existing set of services and products and subsequently innovating. It pays to make the unforgettable memorable for everyone wins in the end.


(Shivaji Dasgupta is the founder of INEXGRO Brand Advisory with interests in consulting, training and writing. Till January 2017 he was Executive Vice-President and General Manager of Contract Advertising in Gurgaon. In a career spanning 20 years he has also been associated with Enterprise Nexus, JWT and Rediffusion, advising a wide range of organisations across every sector. He believes firmly that inspiring, intelligent and imaginative strategy must remain the fundamental foundation for brand management. He can be reached at:

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