OPINION: Why mindstyle advertising is lifestyle in another guise - Will the passage from the brash 80s to the thoughtful, sensitive 90s end in the familiar story of lost consumer confidence and brand identity? By Richard Pike

It’s that time again. The decade is well into its second half and the inevitable process of backward reflection and forward projection is taking place. How can we define the 90s and what will the millennium be all about?

It’s that time again. The decade is well into its second half and

the inevitable process of backward reflection and forward projection is

taking place. How can we define the 90s and what will the millennium be

all about?



We researchers often start to ask these questions in order to increase

our understanding of the people we interview and help our clients

develop increasingly effective advertising.



When I look back at the advertising of the past decade, it is the move

from outward display to inner reflection that strikes me most

forcibly.



The advertising of the pre-recession 80s had the confidence to make

overt statements about the brand user - ’I am what I do, how I look’. In

contrast, the advertising of the mid-90s has been far more covert in

style - ’I am what I think and feel’.



It represents a move from lifestyle to mindstyle advertising.



The end of the 80s saw the heyday of so-called lifestyle advertising:

’The brand for the life you live (or would like to live) today.’



It didn’t really matter what product category it was. You just provided

the vignette - busy mum leaving household chores to play badminton, or

young, single guy relaxing alone in a converted warehouse flat.



Perhaps you added a good tune and then slotted in the brand - cash card,

personal computer, frozen meal, chewing gum, car, airline etc.



This isn’t to say that there wasn’t some excellent lifestyle advertising

which caught the mood of the moment while still being firmly rooted in

the product truth.



The ads seemed to be saying nothing about the product and everything

about its users with whom it was increasingly difficult to identify.



The 90s and the recession hit and they’d had enough of Sloanes, Yuppies

and Dinkies. Then, when the caring, sharing environmentally conscious

male architect was seen to tear up his plans for concreting over the

Lake District while thoughtfully sipping his pint, we all knew that this

style of lifestyle advertising was dead.



Debriefs became littered with words like authenticity, integrity,

honesty, product truth and individuality. The focus of the advertising

began to move towards the product - Levi’s even started talking about

rivets and stitching again.



If the ads didn’t focus on the surface style then what was to be the

hook that would enable an increasingly advertising-literate target to

identify with the brand?



The solution: attitude and the way people think. Nike’s ’Just do it’ and

Tango’s irreverence rule the 90s.



So lifestyle gave way to mindstyle and we started to search for the hero

inside ourselves. Brands began to carry our unique hopes, dreams and

ambitions and we were predisposed to choose them over their competitors

because they understood.



Or did we? Somewhere along the line I have the sneaking suspicion that

the product and what it does is getting lost again.



In particular, the clothes and furniture of club culture and new age

sensibility may allow us to be seduced into thinking that the 90s

depiction of internal attitude is no different from 80s lifestyle

advertising with all the same traps waiting to ensnare us.



I believe mindstyle advertising is lifestyle in another guise and, if

not handled with caution, by the end of the decade the results will be

the same. The product will get lost and the advertiser will lose the

consumer in a morass of irrelevant post-modern irony.



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