“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s pretty good advice for life. But it’s also a bit of wisdom that impacts what midlifers buy, from grocery shopping to gift-giving. 

My brother and I paid a surprise visit to my Mom and stepdad to celebrate Mom’s upcoming 75th birthday. Well, kind of a surprise. We decided to spill the beans a few days before arriving so that we didn’t scare the living daylights out of anyone – and also so she’d have the joy of anticipation for a few days, too.

We shared the guest bathroom. 

This morning as we were packing up, I noticed a small bottle of Pert in the shower. My brother’s. I started giggling. I mean, PERT? They’re still making that stuff?

I had no idea.

Pert was the first two-in-one shampoo and conditioner I remember ever seeing in the 80’s. That fragrance best described as “green and bleachy” is still lodged in my nostrils’ memory. The implied “hurry up!” that comes with a product meant to combine two tasks that probably didn’t really need combining. Both were reasons to chuckle.

But the real reason this tickled me so much is why I suspected my brother was using this stuff.

He’s one of the most nostalgic people I know. However, it may be genetic. I see the same in my dad and son and daughter… okay, I see it in me, too.

Midlifers buy for nostalgia

Lifelong Brand Loyalty, By Design

It turns out that our parents teach us consumer behavior. Mom buys the same dish soap her mom used. Dad uses the same aftershave his dad used. If our parents typically bought the same products over and over, it would make sense that our kid brains would conclude, “This is the way.” Corporate marketing and advertising divisions know this, of course.

For them, brand loyalty is a beautiful thing. If you can delight your customers so much that they choose your product over and over, you no longer need to use advertising dollars to reach that customer. They’re going to buy until something happens that nudges them to buy something different.

My brother pointed out that marketers know this. (Smart guy!) If they can hook a customer in their teens, the odds are pretty good – at least for some percentage of buyers – that they’ll buy that same brand forever. 

Accompanying his bottle of Pert was his bar of Dial soap. These were standard issue in our household growing up. (Well, except for when I used babysitting money to buy ‘fancy’ shampoos like “Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific” or “Body On Tap.”) 

When you find a brand you like, it’s a lot more efficient just to keep buying it. The fewer choices we have to make, the less we suffer from decision fatigue. We know what we’re getting, no surprises. That simplicity drives what midlifers buy, too.

So, next time you fill your grocery cart, notice what’s in there because it’s what you’ve always bought. Might be funny – and I’d love to hear about it.

Nostalgic Buying, Made Possible by the Internet

Groceries are one way our history catches up with us. But it gets even funnier when we buy gifts.

When we were little, we had a Charles Chips guy show up in his truck every week. He’d hop out, jog up to the porch, and leave us a metal can full of potato chips while grabbing the empty one we’d put out for him. 

Best chips ever. I missed them when I moved away. 

My brother ordered a trio of Charles Chips products for me for my last birthday – chips, pretzels, and cookies. They came in those famous tins and tasted just like I remembered. I’ll keep the tins – probably forever. Nostalgia for the win.

The trip down memory lane got me thinking about other products I loved as a kid, whether they were still around, and whether other midlifers buy based on memory, too.

In particular, it got me thinking about Cashmere Bouquet. It’s a soap. My grandmother used it, and I really started to love it when I was in high school. Kind of perfume-y, but I liked it – and loved that its suds felt soft and luxurious. I probably bought it for a decade straight. Until I stopped. No idea why.

So, I went looking for it. Turns out, it hasn’t been manufactured for a while. But I found some on eBay, so I plunked down $12 for what I thought were four bars. Well, yes, it was four bars… of travel-sized soap. Oops! Still, honestly, I’d have paid $12 for a whiff of that memory. I tucked them away and will sniff them at will. (Hey, we all have our own weird!)

Midlifers buy for nostalgia

It’s Not the Soap; It’s the Feeling

Smell is the most powerful of our senses when it comes to memories. Experts say that emotion and smell bond together to store as a single joined memory. That phenomenon alone can drive what midlifers buy. Could be products, could be places or foods – the nose knows nostalgia and wants that flash of remembrance.

You might experience flashbacks of your high school boyfriend if you catch a whiff of Drakkar Noir. Or maybe you suddenly remember your old piano teacher when you smell Red Door. There’s the smell of mimeographs in Sunday School. And if I smell SpaghettiOs, I access this odd, vague, very old memory of eating lunch at a babysitter’s house when I was a preschooler.

You have your own scent memories, I’m sure. 

But what I’d love to know is whether you’ve intentionally bought products based on nostalgia. Tell me all about it in the comments.



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