How “Jiffy pop” washed my childhood brain
It started innocently enough. I was in a supermarket with my son on the weekend, and he picked up a Jiffy pop container and handed it to me. You likely know the product – a round tinfoil container with oil and kernels that expands when heated over a stove to produce popcorn.
I didn’t even know they still made it – it was something more common in the 60s and 70s before microwave popcorn took off. I laughed and we stuck it in the grocery cart for fun and went home.
Later that afternoon, my son turned on the stove and started making the popcorn. I told him that I could still chant the Jiffy pop jingle. And out of my mouth it came:
Jiffy pop, Jiffy pop the magic treat – as much fun to make as it is to eat.
Where did that come from? I hadn’t thought about Jiffy pop in 30 years. Why did I still remember a jingle from my childhood? Were 30-second Jiffy pop commercials like this one that powerful?
Advertising can work – for many years
Apparently so. And it got me thinking: what other products were etched into my mind in childhood, and could potentially still be playing a role in my purchasing decisions today?
Research has shown that there can be a connection. Studies published in the Journal of Consumer Research looked at adult judgments of the healthiness of products, some of which were heavily advertised during the person’s childhood. The study found that when children under age 13 were exposed to advertising using characters, they develop positive long-term feelings towards the characters and the brands’ nutrition for years to come. You can read a short summary of the studies here.
While this study focussed on “characters” in advertising (think Tony the Tiger, Ronald McDonald, the Kool-aid animated jug), I wonder if other associations from childhood also work, like jingles? I can still rhyme off the ingredients in a Big Mac, and say the words to Coke’s “I’d like to teach the world to sing” song. Is that why a Big Mac and a Coke still represent comfort food to me today (even if I don’t indulge)?
Re-examine product decision
Buying habits – and fond associations – can keep us locked into many things whose benefits may be long past their best-before dates. So, it’s never a bad thing to reconsider what you buy and why you buy it. You may never kick that Cap’n Crunch habit, or the lose the magic of Jiffy pop, but at least you’ll be self-aware when you make your next purchase.
Thanks for reading!
Ian M. Hull