Small thought of the day: Brand experiences that fit in the palm of your hand

This month’s edition of Fast Company reports the triumphant return of the matchbook-as-marketing-tool. You might be wondering what the big deal is, but this is exactly the type of trend I like to see. For one thing, it demonstrates creativity -- in this case, a reinvention of expectations and purpose. After all, with more and more states jumping on board the smoking ban bandwagon (35 of them, at last count), matches might have seemed as if they were on their way out. And we’re not talking about your big 250-count “strike anywhere” boxes, which will live on as long as we have gas stoves, power outages, candle-lit dinners, and wood-burning fireplaces. (By the way, has the design of that box ever changed?) No, we mean the diminutive boxes, books, and occasional tubes that we’ve all received over the years at restaurants, bars, hotels, weddings, fashion boutiques, and who knows where else. And after all this time, to breathe new life into something as seemingly functional as a matchbook certainly requires a little ingenuity. What we’re seeing here is a reevaluation of what the object means.

Of course matches “have a certain charm,” as Fast Company notes. But the imaginative part of this matchbook revamp is more than that, and it’s beautifully clear: these objects are tiny pieces of physical culture. Products of a particular time and place, they are not just a tool; they are, simultaneously, an experience.

Picture this: when a company gives me a matchbook with a distinctive design, they’re giving me an invitation to remember them over and over again, and to recall the (hopefully) amazing evening out I had at their new restaurant. I want to keep hold of those memories, and so I hang onto the matchbook. It has become infused with meaning of one sort or another, so I don’t throw it away as I might an event flyer. And by keeping the matchbook, I get reacquainted with the brand each time I use it. In short, these matchbooks are a way to reinforce unique and intimate brand experiences with a tangible, unmistakable token.

Not too shabby for an object that had allegedly seen its heyday come and go. Another new and inventive way that repurposing is becoming all the rage.