Tapping into Passion from the Past

"The past is never dead. It's not even past."

- William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun (1950)

This quote is very poignant to me. My father clipped it from a newspaper article and taped to his lamp. I never asked him why he had done so, but in my mind I knew the answer. It spoke to him about the memory of my older sister (who died at age 6, four years before I was born) and my mother (who passed away in 1980 after a brutal bout with brain cancer). I can visualize that clipping taped to his lamp vividly even though it has been almost 15 years since I last laid eyes on it. 

I was reminded of this quote last week, albeit in a very different context. A family outing to take in the musical performance Video Games Live turned out to be more than a stellar performance by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. The performance was a multimedia entertainment experience featuring music from video games. Video game fans from children to Baby Boomers were treated to an eclectic collection of music that was a gamer's paradise! The evening reinforced the notion that the past is not even past.

Game not Over
The sold-out symphony hall was into the show. In a way, I was surprised by the excitement and energy that I observed among the crowd. My expectations were responses to the effect of "hey, I remember that game." Instead, each number was greeted with a raucous reaction. It was obvious that people were doing more than walking down Memory Lane; the music connected them with their experiences of playing those games. It was not a nostalgic evening as that would suggest revisiting something from the past that had lost relevance or popularity.

Connect with Emotions
So what does my experience at Video Games Live have to do with marketing? The takeaway is that emotions connect people with brands and products. Facts, figures, and statistics make for compelling rational appeals, but they are not very powerful for building liking and preference (i.e., emotion-based states). For video games, the emotions developed can link players to memories of childhood interests, hanging out with college roommates. Today, the gaming experience has broadened to making connections with strangers while playing online. The point is that video games were an important part of the self-identity of many attendees at the concert. 

Marketers should look for ways to go beyond selling what products can do for customers and emphasize telling what products have done to customers. This shift is about moving marketing efforts from being about information (what the product does) to transformation (what the product does for me). I enjoyed watching the reactions of people seated around us when the orchestra began playing another song. The joy, excitement, and love of the music and games for which they were the soundtracks was very evident.

Product features and their benefits evolve as innovation occurs, but the emotional associations people have with a product's role in their lives is more permanent. In other words, "the past is never dead, it's not even past." Look to find and nurture the emotional connections people have with your product.

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