Season 2 Episode 11
November 23, 2022


Why is it that memories of your grandma’s cereal offerings can be such a powerful and nostalgic memory? Ingrid and Kiri talk about the power of memory when it comes to content and commerce and how this element of our human experience can be such a beautiful way for brands to build a legacy that lasts to future generations.

<iframe height="52px" width="100%" frameborder="no" scrolling="no" seamless src=""></iframe>

This Episode Sponsored by:

Infinite Shelf- Shopware
Infinite Shelf - Triple Whale
Infinite Shelf- Gorgias

Why is it that memories of your grandma’s cereal offerings can be such a powerful and nostalgic memory? Ingrid and Kiri talk about the power of memory when it comes to content and commerce and how this element of our human experience can be such a beautiful way for brands to build a legacy that lasts to future generations.

Beautiful Nostalgia

  • There has been a big flight back to legacy brands and national brands that has escalated during times of uncertainty and turmoil, for that sense of comfort and security
  • In a world of so many copycat brands that have saturated a market that used to be full of only legacy brands that were familiar and comfortable, no one wants to think too hard about what cereal they are going to buy
  • It’s been hard to watch new luxury brands have the same longevity as heritage brands because memory and nostalgia compel consumers to go back to the old luxury brands again and again
  • This memory concept is our brain's receptacle of the past, the means of passing our life stories to the next generation for continuity
  • Food, for example, is so connected to our memories and remains a part of our lives in many meaningful ways
  • If you work for a brand or have some influence with a brand that has a little bit of legacy, I think it can be a really, really powerful thing to tap into
  • A lot of small brands that have successfully solved problems in their niche, but relatively few get to that level of scale
  • Even if the product is wildly better than the brand there is much power and resilience that a brand allows you to have that is so much more powerful than just being a product

Associated Links:

Have any questions or comments about the show? Let us know on, or reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. We love hearing from our listeners!

Ingrid: [00:01:09] Hello and welcome to Infinite Shelf, the human-centric retail podcast. I'm your host, Ingrid Milman Cordy, and I am here with our guest co-host for Season 2, Kiri Masters. Hey, Kiri.

Kiri: [00:01:21] Hey. Hey.

Ingrid: [00:01:23] All right. Well, we have a really good episode for you today. We are continuing our journey across the characteristics that make us human, and so in previous episodes, we talked about themes like belonging and community, things like creativity, and things like storytelling and purpose. And today's episode is all about the human characteristic of memory, how do we interact with brands and products, and where memory and frankly, nostalgia comes into play as it relates to memory. And Kiri, I know you are brimming with ideas about how this kind of plays into the commerce space. So what's your point of view even coming from the Amazon side?

Kiri: [00:02:13] Yeah, so I'm neck-deep in Amazon. I have been for seven years and this is something that is not completely new, but it has seemingly escalated over time and that is this flea market feel on Amazon in particular when you go there and you're looking for something that might be a commodity and there are pages after pages of stuff that all looks the same from these brands that you've never heard of, that you don't understand what the quality level is, where it comes from or if it's going to break and I have to return it. And [00:02:58] I've personally seen a big flight back to legacy brands and national brands, and that has escalated and especially during times of uncertainty and turmoil, like at the start of the pandemic, in particular, a big swing back to national brands and that sense of comfort and security. [00:03:20] So seemingly there's this market consolidation and fraction cycle that happens periodically. Seems to me like the market really kind of fractured with the Amazon marketplace and Amazon becoming a platform of lots and lots of different entrepreneurs and factories direct from China actually being able to sell directly to customers. And that's a great thing insofar as it removes a lot of the waste in the system, but then also is very confusing. And I would like, even though I can return an item for free, I don't necessarily want to go through the hassle of like organizing that and taking the package to UPS or whatever I have to do to return something that doesn't work. I want to buy something that I know and trust and I have that has that kind of legacy. So I think that legacy and the trust that comes from a brand or a company that's been around for decades is a really, really powerful moat today when there is just such an abundance of choices and options and maybe less trust than we might have had when there were just fewer options available.

Ingrid: [00:04:46] Right. Yeah. I think you're hitting on so many points that resonate with me as it relates to my selection of products as a consumer and then even just the brands that I watch and follow and learn from throughout the entire spectrum. And it's interesting because I think about the big, big, big shift in consumer needs and expectations that came along with all of the disruptions, the disruptor brands. You got the Warby Parkers and the Caspers and the Glossiers and all of the whole DTC direct to consumer from the plants and cutting out all the middle people and breaking through industries that truly just haven't been disrupted in decades. And I think that there was that big heyday and then it did definitely change consumer sentiment toward questioning, probably for the first time in a really long time why they were just buying this because they've always bought it, and oh, wow, this is actually maybe a better product for a lesser price. And then I think those brands are examples of brands that really did justifiably breakthrough. And then I think they led the way for all of the sort of "diet Glossier brands" that came in and were sort of like hinging on these opened-up concepts of, oh, I don't need to buy everything from Estee Lauder or Clinique or all these brands that have been around for decades. I can think about, oh, this is this young, cool brand. And it's just as good quality, maybe for a lesser price, maybe it comes in better packaging, or whatever the case might be. And then, of course, all of the copycats and all of those things start to deteriorate what your expectations are, and the pendulum swings all the way, especially when the world is shaken in the way that it was during COVID to going back to reducing your level, your level of risk that you're able to take on or wanting to take on. Because so many things are questions. The one question that I don't want to have is which cereal should I buy? I'm going to go to the cereal that I've always bought, and it brings me this level of comfort and nostalgia that I'm expecting.

Kiri: [00:07:17] Yes, definitely. Yeah. I think that the nostalgia is super interesting, especially on those platforms like Amazon, where there is a lot of noise. It's a way of separating brands out.

Ingrid: [00:07:38] So it's very emotional. I have a very old Russian anecdote, like a joke that I think of when it comes to nostalgia driving your purchasing. So the joke goes a man gets married to a woman and his favorite food is this meatloaf that his mother made. And so the mother teaches the wife how to make the meatloaf and every single detail. The wife tries to replicate it and works super, super hard, and puts it in front of the husband. The husband's like, "It's good, but it's not like my mom's." And so she's like, "Shoot. Man, okay. Let me try it one more time." And so she really, really amps up the perfection of exactly following the instructions that the mother gave to a tee. And she's so excited because she's like, this time I really nailed it. And she gives it to her husband. And the husband says, it's, "Wow, it's really delicious. But, you know, it's just not like my mother's." And so she's furious now. And so she goes to try one last time and she does the same thing and she goes really hard and then she actually leaves it in the oven too long. She got distracted and she burns it and she's like, "Oh, I'm so screwed. This is so bad." And she gives it to her husband. And her husband says, "That's just like my mother made it."

Kiri: [00:09:06] {laughter}

Ingrid: [00:09:08] And so the whole idea is that it doesn't have to actually be better. It just has to be the way that you're used to having it as a kid. And it's just this funny idea of how early these impressions of brands and experiences and products are established in our minds. And I promise there's a segue here. The segue is into luxury brands, and thinking about if I were to ask you to name the top five luxury brands in the world. Well, let's do it. What do you think? Let's go with three. Top three luxury brands in the world. What are the first ones that come to mind? Knee jerk reaction.

Kiri: [00:09:52] Probably Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Tiffany.

Ingrid: [00:09:57] So, yes. And all of those brands are over 100 years old. And so over 100 years old and also made by either European or are very European inspired like Tiffany's even though they are made in the US. And so there are all of these connections. And you're from Australia, so there are all these connections to luxury that we establish really, really early on in our lives that I find really fascinating because it's been very hard to watch new luxury brands have the same longevity and heritage, I mean, they can't have the heritage, but the longevity and the presence in our minds as these really, really old design houses. The other ones are Balenciaga and Gucci and Fendi and Givenchy and all of these brands. They're all over 100 years old. And it's just so fascinating to me how the most arguably discerning and moneyed and resource people who can afford these products are still time and time again going back to these heritage brands. And if that's not memory and nostalgia that is creating those connections, I don't know what is.

Kiri: [00:12:06] These are like you said, heritage brands and products that are in a lot of cases passed down to the next generation. And [00:12:17] this memory concept is our brain's receptacle of the past, the means of passing our life stories to the next generation for continuity. [00:12:30] And I know you talk about luxury brands, and maybe I would pass down my Cartier engagement ring to my sons and daughters. But I also think that even without the luxury piece, what you're mentioning about the cereal that you grew up on... I remember going to my grandmother's house as a kid and me and my brother would open her pantry and get so excited about all the different types of sugary cereals that she would have, like just for the grandkids and that sense of nostalgia of having the different cereals in Australia, but Frosties and Nutri-grain and all this stuff that we would never have at home, and that sense of nostalgia and the memory. And I tell my son about that as well when I used to go to my grandmother's house and have all these different cereals. And that's something that I really treasure. And even though those cereals are things that I wouldn't really eat now, they'll always have that place for me.

Ingrid: [00:13:46] They bring you right back to watching cartoons and having that snack and feeling taken care of, right?

Kiri: [00:13:52] Yes, exactly.

Ingrid: [00:13:55] Yeah. And I think that there's... We as parents now have the opportunity to create those memories and those brain waves with our lentil pasta. {laughter} It can be healthier. It's the same way as anyone who has lived in a country until they were like even eight or ten years old and then moved to a country and have... So my parents, for example, moved to the US when they were 19. They are now in their sixties, and so far more of their lives have been spent in the United States than where we're from. And also I think there are a lot of different ways that that happens for immigrants. And my parents were very embracing of the American culture. And so right when they got here, thought it was very important to learn the language and probably shedded their heritage as quickly as they possibly could because that was their journey toward immigration. But with all of that said, they still really, really love the Ukrainian or Russian style of food. Like the food and those memories as it relates to scent and what you have at a particular holiday or season is instilled in them. And I think I've seen that exact same thing,  you always just love the food of the culture from which you come.

Kiri: [00:15:33] Yes.

Ingrid: [00:15:36] Regardless of how good or bad it is. It doesn't matter. It's just connected to your memory. And I think that that's such an interesting thing about the human experience and how we experience foods and products.

Kiri: [00:15:48] Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. This is something that I think a lot of these brands and they don't have to be the hundreds of years old French fashion houses that we talk about. But the cereal brands, the athletic wear brands that we grew up wearing, and the universal brands that bring us the memories. We see this quite regularly in fashion and sportswear in the relaunch of The Edge or something like that. Because it is extremely nostalgic. It's something that a lot of people grew up wearing and now they're at the age where they're decking their kids out with these styles now too. So [00:16:34] if you work for a brand or have some influence with a brand that has a little bit of legacy, I think it can be a really, really powerful thing to tap into. [00:16:47]

Ingrid: [00:18:23] Playing the long game, try to create those legacies. Try to create those moments that you're sowing now if you're mission is longevity and try to be one of those brands that we continue to talk about from generation to generation. So then where does that bring us? Going back to the Amazon example, are there brands that maybe started out as a trend or responded to a consumer need that was truly just a product? Is there a way, do you think, to evolve the product into a brand? Or do you think that brands have to start out from the beginning with that ambition?

Kiri: [00:19:09] Super interesting. I think there's some stat that I'll probably butcher here, but when you look at the Fortune 500 companies and how that mix changes over the decades, it's very rare for a company to actually stay in that Fortune 500 or to continue on undisrupted over a multi-decade period. And I think when we're talking about legacy brands, that's what makes him so special, is that the world of commerce is just continually disrupted. And this is one of the big parts of what I admire about Jeff Bezos and what he built with Amazon is always this day-one mentality that unless we actually stick to our mission of being customer-centric, we're going to be disrupted. And I think Jeff Bezos even said at one point Amazon will be disrupted at some point. But the idea is to sort of stave that off as long as possible. But the reality is that most of these companies, they do get disrupted. Someone else muscles in. They take their eye off the ball for whatever reason. And that's what makes the ones that stick around so unique is that they manage to keep innovating and figuring things out.

Ingrid: [00:20:40] Definitely.

Kiri: [00:20:40] So I think there're a couple of brands, very, very few brands that I'm aware of that have reached a significant level of scale that were born on Amazon. One is the electronics accessory brand, Anker, with charging cables and things like that, and they were born on Amazon. Now you can find them in every airport in the world.

Ingrid: [00:21:07] And they created an Amazon shop, didn't they? Like an agency. I thought they created an Amazon...

Kiri: [00:21:14] They did, actually, Yeah. Yeah, They created a consultancy as well. I mean, it's a huge company and an amazing success. And then the other one is one that was just sold to Church & Dwight in the last few weeks called Hero. They do like face masks.

Ingrid: [00:21:38] Oh, right. The beauty brand. Yeah.

Kiri: [00:21:39] Yeah. So they were born on Amazon as well and had such a level of success. So this is the interesting thing. There are thousands, hundreds of thousands potentially, of little brands that have started on Amazon. Very, very few, like those are the only two that come to mind that reached a significant level of scale having been born there. And there is a lot that by many, many definitions of success have been successful, but not at the point where they get sold onto a huge company or reach an Ankor level of success. So it just kind of goes to I think what we see today is a lot of small brands that have successfully solved problems in their niche, but relatively few get to that level of scale. And that's what makes the ones that do actually really special.

Ingrid: [00:22:41] Right. Right. And I think that that's such a great example of product versus brand. I think Amazon takes a lot of care around their brand. If you look at the way that even their organization is set up, they have so many people in PR and some form of corporate communications and they're very, very careful about what they put out into the world, what content they have, and all of that type of thing. Whereas they're also the mothership for all of these individual brands and products within their marketplace. But those brands and products, to your point earlier, yes, [00:23:32] there are a few Heros and Ankors of the world, but in reality, most of it is just like a sea of products that are there to solve a problem. And I think Amazon is acutely aware that they themselves are the name brand and everything else is the product. I think that works incredibly strongly in their favor. And I think they understand the power of that. And I think that if you look at the opposite, which is mall culture from the 90s and 80s, maybe you knew the name of the mall or whatever, but it didn't matter. It was the stores in that mall, the Victoria's Secret, the Gap, the Abercrombie, the Limited, all of those Les Wexner brands that were the stars of the show. And obviously, there are a million other reasons why that model maybe didn't work as well and it's been disrupted by Amazon. But it is a very interesting example of the power of a brand and the power of a product. And I always find myself going back to underscoring the power and the resilience and the memory and the awareness and the nostalgia that a brand allows you to have that is so much more powerful than just being a product. Even if the product is wildly better than the brand, the brand has so many more legs to stand on. [00:25:04]

Kiri: [00:25:04] Yes, that's a really interesting point about that shift from the platform to the product platform debate. Yeah.

Ingrid: [00:25:18] So cool. I love this topic. I feel like the memory piece is so human. And obviously, I think there's also I think elephants have memory and things like that too. And so we're not the only ones that have these nostalgic feelings, but we're the ones that can buy on Amazon. So haha elephants. Well, thank you so much for having this really, really fun conversation with me. And I actually think this is maybe our last episode together on this journey of going through human emotions. And I just want to...

Kiri: [00:25:52] Yeah.

Ingrid: [00:25:52] Man, it's been such a fun ride with you. And I have learned so much from you, and you've expanded my way of thinking in so many ways. And so I wanted to just say thank you for gifting me with that and more, even so, thank you for gifting our audience with your way of thinking.

Kiri: [00:26:08] Oh yeah, this has been a blast. Thank you so much for inviting me on and it's been good to lift... I think one of the things we talked about at the start was elevating conversation beyond the kind of transactional things that happen in the world of commerce into what makes commerce human when we talk about brands, employees, and our own behaviors. And the human traits that tie us all together and actually kind of give some sense of meaning and interpreting what those are in the spaces between brands and retailers and consumers. So it's definitely been interesting to connect all the dots that way.

Ingrid: [00:27:00] Definitely. Definitely. Yeah and I think so in the next episode you'll just have me and I'll go through just a wrap-up of all of the different emotions and some of the key highlights from this season. But truly, if you haven't listened to the rest of the season, please go back and listen to our episodes about the human experience and how content and commerce and products and brands and consumers all combine to go through this human experience together. And thank you so much for being a part of that journey.

Kiri: [00:27:35] Thank you.

Recent Episodes

A Season of Moments

Don't Ignore Your Fans

What's in Your Closet?

Recent Episodes

Latest Podcasts
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.