Brands as Markers of Generations
by Chiqui Escareal-Go
 
“Science and technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, tradition and myth frame our response.” (Arthur M. Schlesinger)
 
Think of how digital SLR cameras democratized the photography industry and especially how social media has changed the face of information dissemination, journalism, advertising, and everyday communication.  (Who thinks of mailing greeting cards nowadays? Or who remembers the excitement of having a roll of film developed?)
 
It will not be surprising if in the future,  proof of identity will be entirely based on a social media profile – which includes birth details, marital status  and employment history, something already happening today as a an HR tool. 
 
Apps being created to understand people and their interests are already mainstreaming and before we know it, the capabilities (predictive and analytical) of artificial intelligence may just make many jobs obsolete, or make human contact redundant.
 
As this mighty evolution of technology continues to surge, the baby boomer in me is holding on to my little symbols of childhood – the games we played, the anecdotes that date us and the products we consumed as markers of our age and generation. 
 
I remember the little luxuries our small allowances (of 25 centavos) can afford and how we can put together a story with each product experience.  Remember that triangular shaped tetra pack orange drink?  My friends and I would lay the empty pack on the ground and stomp on it to produce a loud popping sound, just for the heck of it.   Nothing really special in that little game except when one of my classmates did the same thing inside a movie house and we were wearing our school uniforms.  (I wanted to disappear as the movie usher approached us with a warning.)
 
I remember the soft drink promo of collecting crowns to complete Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (I think it was Sleepy that was the most elusive) or even returning the bottles to get a refund on deposit using school chits.  And of course, my generation would always remember the comic strip inside a bubble gum wrapper, shaking the chocolate bottle to better mix the liquid with the solids at the bottom and the “lima-singko” (5 pieces for 5 centavos) lemon drops scooped into a brown paper bag.
 
These are the stories I will share with the next generation, not just so we don’t forget but because I am hopeful we don’t lose emotional connections of the past as this defines who we are as Filipinos (the same reason why we can create the funniest of memes or plain jokes during my time).  While we now have viral videos that make us cry, we also have this tendency to “live vicariously” in a virtual world where we swing from being spectators or readers of others’ lives and active commentators on the other where feelings expressed by emojis, hashtags, and abbreviated expressions (IKR?).
 
Note that for the products I mentioned above,  readers of my generation would know the brands being referred to (except for the lemon drops because those really didn’t have any packaging and just came straight out of a glass container at the sari-sari store).   I realize that what makes a product or a brand timeless or immortal at least in the minds of consumers are the fun and simple stories of how these products took part in our youthful adventures.
 
We will always remember the cowboy of the cigarette ad not just because it is truly a powerful image but also because the youth of our generation somehow went through all that rebellious stage of trying to smoke behind our parents’ backs, like some rite of passage.  Then there were the pair of blue jeans we picked out to wear to our first soiree, the fastfood burger we ate on our first date, or even the black leather boy’s shoes we bought before our first day of school, and you guessed it – at this super crowded, one floor shoe store across a theater in Makati.  (I’m not really that old, see?  Other generations would remember buying their school shoes in Recto or Escolta because that’s where the stores were.)
 
Technology has changed many things and of course brands and everyone else will have to adapt.  Attention spans are shorter, ease of access to information has made people less resourceful and even the traffic has caused many of us to stay behind our mobile phone or computer screens to remain connected on the premise of social interaction. 
 
I guess what we will remember about these times are the viral videos of dogs and cats that made us laugh and cry, the memes that can only be understood by Filipino humor, inspiring messages about humanity as well as our frustrations with the internet speed, dropped calls, fake sites and trolls.
 
While the technology has opened many possibilities and opportunities of learning and doing (right things right I hope), I maintain that one cannot know exactly how it feels to pop that a tetra pack inside a moviehouse (and shrinking in your seat during the entire movie).  It is a test of character to promise never to do it again.  You don’t learn that virtually. #yeahright
 
 
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Chiqui Escareal-Go is theCEO and Chief Service Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, the only advocacy-based training and consultancy firm focused on marketing, sales, strategy and innovation. For feedback, write to 
mentors@mansmith.netor log on to www.mansmith.net for the schedule of 2017 public seminars.