Volkswagen: a drive down memory lane
As we hurtle into the new millennium, social experts are busier than ever assessing the impact of a host of environmental forces on consumers and the marketers who serve them. Some experts observe how ‘millennial fever’ is driving consumer behaviour in all sorts of interesting ways. Today, people of all ages seem to feel a bit overworked, overstimulated and overloaded. While they hail the benefits of the wired 90s, they are also overwhelmed by the breathtaking onrush of the Information Age, with its high-speed modems, cell phones and pagers. The result of this ‘millennial fever’ is a yearning to turn back the clock, to return to simpler times. This yearning has in turn produced a massive nostalgia wave to which marketers of all kinds have responded by re-creating products and images that help take consumers back to ‘the good old days’. Examples of such flirtations with nostalgia include retro roadsters such as the Porsche Boxter, DaimlerChrysler’s PT (personal transportation) Cruiser and the new Mini. The singer Aretha Franklin re-recorded ‘Rescue Me’ as ‘Deliver Me’ for a Pizza Hut commercial, a recent Pepsi commercial rocks to the Rolling Stones’ ‘Brown Sugar’, while Janis Joplin’s raspy voice crows, ‘Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz?’ Perhaps no company has more riding on the nostalgia wave than Volkswagen. Back in the 1950s, the original Volkswagen Beetle, with its simple, bug-like design, no-frills engineering and economical operation, was the antithesis of American brash, chrome-laden gas guzzlers. Although most owners would readily admit that their Beetles were under-powered, noisy, cramped and freezing in the winter, they saw these as endearing qualities. Overriding these minor inconveniences, the Beetle was cheap to buy and own, dependable, easy to fix, fun to drive and anything but flashy. During the booming 1960s, demand exploded and the Beetle blossomed into an unlikely icon....
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