A few weeks ago the story of Steffie, a young cancer patient, touched me. In a tv-spot she explains that several people (her parents, the baker and her ballet friends…) are showing their tongue for her. The reason behind this infantile protest? Taking a stand against the horrible disease of childhood cancer, the disease that also hit Steffie.
‘Kom op, steek je tong uit tegen kanker!’ (Come on; stick out your tongue at cancer!)is the slogan of the biennial Cancer-campaign of the ‘Vlaamse Liga tegen kanker’ (Flemish association against cancer) and the ‘VRT’ (the Flemish national TV station). This time the organization is focusing on the long term effects of childhood cancer. Next to sensitization, they aim at to support and buck up young patients and their environment. In addition they want to collect funds in order to further develop and optimize possible treatments in view of improving quality of life when it comes to the later lives of the now-sick children.
People are encouraged to show their disdain against childhood cancer and protest the disease by sticking out their tongue at cancer and posting photos of their actions onhttp://www.komoptegenkanker.be, where they can dedicate their support to a specific young patient they are acquainted with. When visiting this page you can browse through numerous contributions; families, children, classes and even cats and babies are sticking out their tongue at cancer. But what does this symbolic gesture of sticking out your tongue actually signify?
Let’s first have a look at the historical meaning of “sticking out one’s tongue”. Originally showing one’s tongue is a way of impressing the enemy and keeping him at a safe distance. The Maori in New-Zealand used to make fierce facial expressions (showing the white of their eyes, sticking out their tongue…) in order to frighten their opponents. By sticking out their tongue they show their combative nature, their willingness to fight and the fact that they are not to be underestimated or messed with.
Sticking out one’s tongue is an instinctive gesture. It is used when words no longer suffice, it is a very basic way of expressing your dislike and disdain for something or someone. It is a means of expression that goes beyond language. Like other forms of body language, the expressed meaning lies much closer to our natural, wild selves; making the effects all the more powerful. In our regions it is perceived as rude and considered an insult when someone sticks one’s tongue out at you. Hence we learn from a very young age that this gesture is unacceptable.
Another important element is that showing one’s tongue is also a childish, immature reflection, related to young kids and babies. For babies, sticking out their tongue is socially appropriate. In Western Culture, we consider it cute and even encourage it. Meanwhile, the baby is learning how to imitate and manipulate his or her mouth; thereby learning the beginning of communication. When kids grow older, it becomes the symbol of childish provocation, an infantile reflection showing protest and dislike. It’s one of the first acts kids apply to rebel and to push the boundaries.
In the context of the campaign, the gesture is a way of showing militancy against childhood cancer. Instead of accepting or simply undergoing the consequences of the disease, people are motivated to stand up against it and to show their willingness to fight alongside the young victims. In this way they offer real emotional support to the children that need to combat their disease every single day, inspiring them not to give up but rather to stay strong and to counterattack. The rebellious starting point, the fact that it incites people to go against the norm and act crazy, creates rumor. It makes that the campaign doesn’t pass unnoticed and gets sufficient attention in the media.
Nevertheless, the big question is whether the gesture is still up-to-date and contemporary enough to be a relevant and effective way to communicate about childhood cancer. Sticking out one’s tongue is indeed a part of children’s vocabulary, but especially of the youngest ones. Nowadays, the gesture tends to be less popular among older children and is slightly outdated. Other gestures like ‘putting up your middle finger’ took over the function of showing one’s tongue and became more popular ways to show dislike and disdain. This makes that the overall campaign threatens to fail hitting the mark as it risks to be reduced to a very immature way of talking about a serious matter such as cancer. Yet might come across as ‘stuffy’, ‘infantile’ and ‘goody-goody’
But let’s not forget that using this symbol is in fact a way of speaking to and about (small) children in their own language -bottom-up communication. As such, sticking out your tongue at cancer is in fact a way of protesting cancer, tailored to small children. By using this gesture, they manage to make children the explicit focal point of this campaign, while also supporting the involved children in a way that they can fully understand.
And this is why we should all stick our tongue out …
Patricia Vossenaar – Researcher at WHY5 Research
It may be my age (or profession) but I can’t avoid being drawn towards information on the healthiness of food and drinks. This information jumps at us from so many different angles and through diverse channels (articles, infomercials, TVC’s, on pack product claims, advice from friends, colleagues, …). Everybody seems to know something about healthy food nowadays. It is also important to point that ‘health’ means different things in various stages of life. For younger age groups it is mainly about the fear of being/becoming unattractive (old & ugly). For the older age groups the focus shifts towards the avoidance of illness.
All things considered, it is not surprising that “what we eat & drink’ comes (even) more into focus . Doing good to ourselves via the food we eat seems perfectly logical. So, why don’t we all just eat healthily at all times … ? After all it’s easier to control than exercising regularly, guarding over quality of sleep, avoid pollution and other domains which influence health.
Why eating healthily is such a difficult territory is due to different elements:
Products and brands eagerly tap into the popularity and vagueness of this field by offering an enormous amount of (real or ‘so called’) healthier products, food supplements, … and try to explain benefits of existing and new product propositions. However, in talks with consumers we notice increasing confusion and even reticence or downright cynicism towards the most repetitive and overly simplified messages (e.g. ‘light’, ‘with omega’, ‘less sugar’). So, how should a consumer find his/her way without getting overwhelmed or cynical?
Health claims are more critically considered. There has been a shift and the rules of the ‘self deception’ have changed. The time that ‘light’ (or low calories/low sugar) automatically equalled more health - and thus enabled the consumer to get rid of guilt feelings - are long gone. ‘Light’ even rings alarm bells in some categories.
Nevertheless people remain very open to small subtleties and cues which genuinely point to healthier products, especially when they don’t compromise on indulgence and full taste. A majority at least periodically selects certain brands/product variants or is at least influenced by communication on health. All consumers have periods that they hesitate and need confirmation of ‘being on the right track’. Brands which enable to indulge in ‘balanced enjoyment’ have an edge.
Interestingly, we notice in interviews that also teenagers are increasingly influenced by health messages. Due to the continous media pressure they start asking questions about the suitability of regular consumption products like CSD, snacks, chocolate, etc.. much earlier than previous generations used to do. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they act upon all those messages (as their own peer group is the true reference and real health issues are light years away), but it has (also for teens) become common sense to at least resonate about health and product choices. And if it’s not for their own good, then it’s for the sake of avoiding tension with their well meaning parents.
It is key that brands offer tangible benefits but also excell in genuine information and re-invent ways to bring health messages across for all age groups.
Cheers, Bon Appétit, Guten Appetit, buen provecho,
Erik Van Gelder
Senior Researcher at WHY5Research
In spring the days become longer since the axis of the earth is increasing its tilt toward the sun. The hemisphere begins to warm up significantly, the air and ground temperature increase more rapidly. Spring is a time of growth, generating new life as animals give birth and plants and flowers start to blossom.
But next to its meteorological meaning, spring has a broader connotation. Aside from the weather's transformations that occur in the spring season, the general atmosphere and mindset of people changes too. Spring heralds a period of optimism and hope, referring to rebirth, renewal and regrowth.
The Prague Spring for instance indicated a period of hope and progression in former Czechoslovakia. The event brought about a wave of political renewal and liberalization in times of Soviet oppression. Quite recently the Arabic Spring or Awakening shook up the world. A series of civil protest and demonstrations against corrupt regimes, autocracies and abuses on all kinds of levels, united the common Arab’s dream for freedom and democracy.
The term ‘spring’ may refer to liberation on a political level, but reminds of rejuvenation on a cultural or artistic level as well. Think about Botticelli’s Allegory of Spring (La Primavera), at that time one of the first paintings combining religious and profane (thus non-Christian) scenes representing the beginning of spring. Or Vivaldi’s Spring (part of Vivaldi’s Quattro Stagioni) breaking a lance for a new music form: the solo principle of the Concerto.
But what does the beginning of spring mean to the daily life of people, what does the season do for us?
During spring, change is in the air. The improving weather generates a feeling of excitement and suspense. People are triggered by curiosity and driven by a desire to come out and observe Mother Nature’s rebirth. The pace of life starts to get accelerated again. The beginning of the season brings relief after a dark and introspective period of contemplation and inner-reflection during winter time. Spring is about receiving a fresh start. The psychology behind the famous spring clean is literally clearing things up, getting tabula rasa.
Spring can be understood as a period of extravert creativity. People might experience their personal rebirth in a very expressive way by making their renewed energy visible. Houses and gardens are increasingly becoming important platforms to express one’s identity. During spring time people start to prepare their houses and gardens for a new outdoor season. Indoors, people literally drive out the winter mood by opening the windows and letting in the spring breeze. Painting and papering the walls, changing or refreshing the interior are examples of typical activities of bringing some fresh air into home. Outdoors people try to give an optimum chance to new life and growth by cleaning the garden and removing death parts. Mowing the lawn for the first time again, trimming hedges, holding spring pruning are ways to show that you and your garden are ready to gratefully accept new life and growth.
Spring time may lead to increased social activity and openness as well. Some people see the start of spring as the perfect moment to come outside again, to boost social life and refresh social relationships. They sign up for all kinds of social activities, visit social places, contact old friends and classmates.
Other people find during spring the guts to add a new dimension to their relationship. Spring time introduces the start of the high-season of marrying which continues during summer time. Next to marriages spring time is also the period of solemn Communions and spring ceremonies (the humanistic variant). The idea behind these festivities is in fact celebrating the transition period from childhood to adolescence. From now on the adolescent becomes ‘a full member’ of the community and starts to carve out its own way, of course under supervision of parents and family.
In conclusion, the beginning of spring preludes a period of hope and optimism. People approach life, their environment and ideas more positively which results in a more progressive mindset. No matter what spring time might bring to you, let’s all fully embrace and enjoy our bright new start.
By Patricia Vossenaar
Researcher @ WHY5Research
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