Your Grandfather Drank Hamm's
Brands, Ancestors & Ephemeral Time
The other day I came across an old photograph of a couple of guys drinking Hamm’s beer and I thought about how this snapshot must mean a lot to someone. I really like the picture too, but more for the aesthetics—the washed out vintage texture, the old time look of the cans, and that the guys are goofing around. There’s an innocence about it that bespeaks a different era.
Beyond just style, there's something about vintage things, the way they conjure a larger perspective. You think about the years rushing past, ephemeral, indifferent to our little projects and conceits. And in this particular case, I was thinking about those cans of Hamm’s, how that brand is enjoying a resurgence among hipsters on the basis of its down-market cool. In this sense, you can see ‘The land of sky blue waters’ stretching out across the decades, connecting disparate points in time.
You can see ‘The land of sky blue waters’ stretching out across the decades, connecting disparate points in time.
Nostalgia is a powerful force—the urge to go back to long gone places, the allure of lost worlds. In our fleeting days, we grasp onto what little we can: the people we love, what we're able to accomplish...and even the brands we are loyal to. Yes, put brands on the rarefied list—the markers of a life.
If you doubt consumer brands rise to this level, consider how people remember their ancestors. Think of stories told about grandfathers, details recalled down to the make of car he drove, the tools the man swore by, and the brand of beer he drank. Indelible details.
Your grandfather defined himself by his brands just as surely as by where he worked, who he married and his stint in the army. In our era of endless consumer choice, the idea of loyalty to a beer brand perhaps serves as a proxy for loyalty itself, a lost attribute from your grandfather's generation.
Hamm’s defined him in the same way it defines the hip twenty-something kid swilling that same beer. The resurgence of vintage brands today is a clever commercial application of nostalgia.
You are not dead until you are forgotten, so the saying goes. By extension, in a consumer culture, you’re not forgotten until your brands are out of production.
Here's a deeper dive into nostalgia and the science behind it.