Paul Marsden is a highly experienced consumer psychologist, specializing in the psychology of happiness — the science and practice of improving human well-being. He lectures at the London College of Fashion in psychology, marketing, and consumer behavior among many other professional psychology-focused pursuits. We sat down with Paul to pick his brain on seasonality in fashion as we think many of the takeaways can be applied to the food and beverage space.
What are some of the key psychological drivers behind seasonal, limited edition, and LTOs?
Main driver is around association; Christmas, birthdays, and sensorial associations embody what something means to you. People are neophobic, meaning we don’t like new stuff. We learn to like things with positive associations for example, Christmas and ginger, “triangles of association”. Creating something new or imitation with a twist, like ginger and lemon, builds out positive emotional and sensorial associations.
These signal our social status to others. There is a natural inclination to signal brands we buy, ability to acquire, and ownership to others — we like scarce resources. Our natural instinct is to value it more, limited availability increases value. This is why seasons work, as they are limited/temporary.
Can you talk to us about the power of associations?
After the financial crisis, big brands were associated with being ‘bad’. Looking at craft beer, for example, small batches/brewers created positive encounters by making consumers feel that they were against the ‘big bad corporate world’. They were able to disassociate themselves from the large and ‘bad’ corporations.
DHL’s brand is all about evoking humanity and playing to human values to counter the big negative connotations. Nike and Adidas put humans together, emphasize the idea of our planet being small, and address different ethnicities by creating limited, local editions.
Do you have any advice you’d like to share?
A study in Florida showed that when people were asked to attend a focus group about retirement and old people, the respondents started subconsciously acting like the old people they were talking about. This demonstrates that when people are put in immersive environments it can cause impact, making them pick up certain behaviors. Creating immersive experiences based on sensory associations and positive memories will build brand equity in someone’s mind. Innovate around key life events by finding out what are the positive things in people’s lives and then build based on association.
When most folks think of seasonality it’s normally in preparation of Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall; but when consumers, more specifically foodies, think of seasonality it is usually in anticipation of pumpkin spice lattes or breast cancer pink cookies. At Symrise we are constantly looking for ways to innovate and that means going beyond the scope of normal. It also means not only looking for inspiration within, but outside of the box — our box being the food and beverage space. To do that, we teamed up with Brand Genetics to interview eleven experts spanning several, very different industries to get their take on seasonality in hopes of guiding you on your path to being informed, inspired, and innovative.
The biggest takeaway from this series of interviews is that seasonality is about about novelty (think charcoal ice cream), flavor (pumpkin spice latte), functional benefit (plant-based everything), association (gingerbread cookies during Christmas), excitement (unicorn frappe), and priming (marketing). It is also a reflection of our world — weather, time of year, ingredients, locales, cultures, etc. Seasonality can be a good product development tool with the right balance of market curation and experimentation. At the same time, it can be expensive and hard to pull off without a healthy balance of change and stability.
This series is backed by our Seasonality Initiative where we help our customers develop pipelines of new concepts and flavor ideas for the seasons and major holidays. If you have questions or would like to learn more about our initiative please contact us.
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