Sunny Attitudes in Dark Times
In a post on the Harvard Business Review Blogs, Grant McCracken talked about advertising’s “new ‘sweetness’ trend.”
I wouldn’t call today’s trending sweetness “new.” And I don’t think most intellectual historians would call it surprising.
During economic downturns, people put up with so much negativity that upbeat messages and tones—and even colors—get positive responses. People need sunny when everything else seems dark.
Let’s look at the Great Depression:
In the 1930s and 1940s, the downtrodden U. S. population craved sunny images and punchy colors. Color photographs from the time period show women in teal, pink, orange, baby blue, green, and yellow. As financially strapped people repurposed grain sacks for clothing, food companies switched from white sacking to bright and playful prints to lure women to buy their commodities over another brand’s.
Likewise, Norman Rockwell hit the big leagues during the Great Depression because his sunny, humorous, human, and positive illustrations of American life hit the mark. People needed upbeat images to help them feel the good in the world.
Prior and subsequent recessions generated the same sweetness trend as the Great Depression and our most recent economic downturn. Think of the 1980s’ neon and bubble-gum colors. And the highly unintimidating rap songs, a la the “Super Bowl Shuffle,” created by professional football teams from the same era.
What we see today stems from past lessons learned.
Business and advertisers and politicians and anyone who needs to influence the population do well to tap into the predominant psychological need of the time.
That’s not new or surprising.
That’s psychology 101.