Beethoven, the ice cream man, on-hold music and candy

Every day we unconsciously surrender to the power of associations. And sometimes their annoying and even painful side effects.

Take, for example, the incredibly beautiful Für Elise by Ludwig van Beethoven. What comes to mind when you hear this world-famous tune? Probably not what Beethoven was thinking of when he composed it. 

Perhaps it reminds you of the on-hold music and the endless amount of time wasted waiting to speak to someone at the helpdesk at the utilities or phone company? Or maybe it takes you back to those wonderful, hot summers when you were a kid and the ice cream man who drove down your street every day blaring “Für Elise” from the loudspeaker on top of his ice cream truck?

The first case probably causes a queasy feeling in your stomach every time you hear that, nonetheless wonderful, melody. With the second, perhaps your taste buds recall the heavenly flavor of butter pecan ice cream as nostalgia sets in and you dreamily reflect on when you were a child and everything was still so simple. Same melody, but a world of difference in terms of experience.

Throughout our lives, we are continuously creating new associations based on positive and negative experiences that make an impression on us in one way or another. There is always at least one food or drink that will give people chills just thinking about it. It is often something that has caused them to become extremely ill. The source of the sickening feeling does not even have to be the food itself. We may have become nauseous because we actually had the flu. But we still associate the feeling with that particular food. And it is very difficult to change our mind about it.

We even go so far as telling friends and acquaintances just how sick it made us – and all the unpleasant details of what followed. I have a good friend who once became violently ill after eating a certain type of candy bar. Well… now every time I see that brand of candy bar lying in the rack, I unconsciously think of his story and suddenly lose my appetite.

What sort of associations do your products or services invoke with (potential) customers?

Do you ever stop to think about it?