Remember the Time: Why Nostalgia Marketing Works So Well

Experiential Marketing

In a world that’s constantly evolving, nostalgia marketing immerses you in remembrance of the past. Back when you were younger, and life was simpler. Plus, research shows that nostalgia gives our lives a sense of continuity and meaning as we grow older. In turn, brands recognize the value of nostalgia marketing to convince consumers to spend through the power of sentimentality. Inspired to open their wallets for the immediate return of cherished memories gives brands the chance to connect with their customers on a deeper level. The good news? Any company can reach consumers by taking them to the past. Let’s explore some of the most convincing reasons why nostalgia marketing works so well for brands.

Nostalgia Marketing Photos

What Is Nostalgia Marketing?

What makes nostalgia marketing so impactful is its inclusivity. We all daydream about the past. So, whether you’re a Millennial remembering your favorite Saturday morning cartoons or a Baby Boomer dusting off old vinyl records you listened to in high school, nostalgia marketing offers something for everyone. After all, the experiences of our past help mold our present personalities and identities. Because its meaning is so broad (depending on the consumer), the simplest way to define nostalgia marketing is to see it as a satellite in the orbit of emotional marketing. We know that emotional marketing has consumer cache, convincing customers to act and advocate on behalf of brands. Likewise, nostalgia marketing taps into emotions through memories.

For a brand as storied as Coca-Cola, they frequently lean on nostalgia marketing because they have the company history to do so. So, every holiday season, we get a dose of fond memories with its classic, Norman Rockwell-style Christmas ads. Fast-forward about 70 years later and, to the chagrin of Millennials everywhere, Coca-Cola discontinued its citrus-flavored drink, SURGE, in 2014. 

Coca Cola Nostalgia Marketing Advertisement Santa Claus

Thus, the SURGE Movement was born. From petitions to billboards (and a presentation to the President of Coca-Cola North America), fans saved SURGE from extinction, and it remains in the arsenal of Coca-Cola’s extensive product line today. What made the SURGE revival so successful wasn’t so much anything Coca-Cola did on its part. Instead, it simply responded to fans’ nostalgia and generated goodwill and loyalty by bringing back a beloved beverage.

Nostalgia Marketing Makes People Feel Good

The first reason why nostalgia marketing works so well is that nostalgia is good medicine. In a study conducted by the University of Southampton, researchers found that nostalgia can “counteract loneliness, boredom, and anxiety.” Similar studies have also found that nostalgia helps people cope with stress and dramatic life changes. In other words, nostalgia isn’t just a marketing strategy; it’s also a psychological phenomenon. 

For decades, Apple has enjoyed its status as one of the world’s preeminent brands. Part of that success is a testament to its innovative marketing plans. In 2016, Apple tapped into feel-good, heart-warming memories upon its release of the iPhone 6. Turning to Sesame Street— arguably the most nostalgic of all children’s shows— Apple created an ad starring Cookie Monster using Siri to bake his treasured cookies. Apple’s nostalgia marketing campaign combined its innovative technology with a blast from the past to showcase its fun and playful side. 

Nostalgia Marketing Triggers Memorable Pop Culture Moments 

One of the easiest ways to capture an audience is to help them remember fond memories. Moreover, shared experiences are the ones that cast the widest net. So, classic films and music, historical events, and fads occupy the most space in the cultural zeitgeist. Whether it’s Spotify’s homage to “The Neverending Story” or Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s nod to “The Karate Kid,” tapping into memorable pop culture moments is a powerful strategy to elicit strong emotions. 

In 2019, Amazon recreated a classic 1950s New York experience IRL, when “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” occurs to promote the show’s third season. With help from a branded food truck stationed in the heart of Manhattan, a complimentary selection of nostalgic eats was offered. With sandwiches like “The Maisel” (pastrami, salami, and coleslaw on rye) and “The Susie” (turkey and coleslaw on rye) to the most classic New York dessert, the Black and White cookie, Amazon used both sensory and nostalgia marketing to transport fans of the show to back to post-war NYC.

Nostalgia Marketing Creates More Authentic Campaigns 

Last but not least on the list of why nostalgia marketing is so successful has to do with authenticity. Brands spend millions of dollars every year to be “relatable” to their target audiences. When consumers can see themselves in a brand, it creates an almost unbreakable bond. That sense of “kindred spirits” intrinsically ties the brand and consumer together. 

If you grew up in the 90s, there’s little doubt how much of a role Microsoft played in your life. It opened up the user-friendly PC experience worldwide and spearheaded the technological revolution of the 2000s. In 2013, Microsoft launched its “Child of the 90s” campaign, promoting its latest edition of Internet Explorer. Microsoft took audiences on a trip down memory lane to win over a generation now loyal to browsers like Chrome and Safari. From slap bracelets to floppy disks, Trolls, and Tamagotchis, they created the ultimate tribute to the 90s. With its slogan, “You grew up. So did we.,” Microsoft used nostalgia marketing to reconnect with the millions who first logged online with them.

What’s Old Is New Again

Having a passion for the past can bring brands success. Looking back on good times and warm memories allows brands to invoke positive emotions from consumers, put their products in a positive light, and boost awareness and loyalty. Older audiences will reminisce, and younger generations will enjoy the novelty of old trends becoming new again. Developing the right nostalgia marketing strategy takes identifying memorable moments for your audience and using them to enhance your brand’s identity. When brands understand their customers, they can keep their fingers on the pulse of what they crave and what excites them the most.

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As If! Nostalgia Marketing Meets the 90s

Experiential Marketing

Brands and agencies are taking a “blast from the past” approach with nostalgia marketing designed to capture consumers’ attention through emotionally-driven campaigns. 

Remember the 90s? Sitting on your bean bag chair, listening to the jarring dial-up sounds of AOL, while holding your “Tickle Me Elmo” and singing the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe” (and never knowing what “zig-a-zig-ah” meant, but it was really catchy anyway). 

Those were simpler times for many and almost 25 years later, in our current 21st century reality, reminiscing about the decade of Doc Martens, Beanie Babies, and “Goosebumps” is totally rad. 

Savvy brands and agencies have revived the era with nostalgic marketing celebrating 90s pop culture, so here’s the 411 on recent branded activations that are hella fly.

New Balance Rewind to the 90s Marketing

 Rewind to the 90s”

When New Balance launched their “X-90 Knit” in 2018, celebrating the best of the 90s with 21st-century street style, they wanted to pay homage to the decade that made their sneakers iconic fashion staples. Partnering with Footlocker and Nickelodeon, they produced a “Rewind to the 90s” nostalgia marketing pop-up event complete with all the greatest hits from a 90s kid’s childhood. 

Attendees were treated to a fully-immersive 90s experience that began with tickets in the form of “slap bracelets.” From there, they were treated to a Koosh ball-pit, mock Blockbuster store, and sets inspired by classic Nickelodeon shows like “Double Dare” and “SNICK” (the network’s popular Saturday-night programming block).

If that doesn’t sound like “da bomb,” New Balance even replicated the bedroom of a 90s teen, complete with vintage movie posters and desktop computer and gave attendees the chance to meet 90s-era celebrities like Ben Savage from “Boy Meets World” and Jaleel “Steve Urkel” White.

“The Crystal Pepsi Trail”

There were a lot of short-lived fads from the 90s, but few were as memorable (even 25 years later) as Crystal Pepsi. From their Super Bowl ad featuring Van Halen’s classic “Right Now” to Saturday Night Live’s “Crystal Gravy” parody commercial, there was a time in the early 90s where Crystal Pepsi was everywhere, until it wasn’t.

Crystal Pepsi Bottle

In 2015, Pepsi made the decision to revive the clear-colored soda for a limited eight-week run with a game called The Crystal Pepsi Trail, reminiscent of The Oregon Trail {the game you’d play in computer class as a kid, trying (in vain) to keep your 19th-century pioneers dying from dysentery}. 

Also featuring 90s references like Furbies and Tamagotchis, Pepsi found success with their nostalgia marketing campaign. Their first trailer announcing the game received a 104% organic engagement rate in its first 24 hours on Facebook coupled with fans praising the game’s authentic coding and design on Reddit.

 “Cher-able” Eats at “Clueless” Themed Restaurant

25 years-ago this summer, one of the most recognizable films of the 90’s premiered in theaters and forever changed the way we think of words like “Betty” and “Monet.” 

To celebrate the silver anniversary of “Clueless,” Paramount Pictures announced plans to open “As If!,” a pop-up restaurant in Los Angeles later this year. Teaming up with the same creative minds behind nostalgia marketing pop-ups including “Saved by the Bell,” “Good Burger,” and Beverly Hills’ 90201 “The Peach Pit,” “As If!” is set to feature L.A.-inspired food and drinks, as well set recreations and photos from the film. 

“It’s truly one of those films that has stood the test of time and cult fandom” Derek Berry, one of the concept’s partners, told Deadline in a recent interview, “With the anniversary quickly approaching there was no better team than ours to honor this beloved teen classic and bring Cher’s (Horowitz. The film’s main character played by Alicia Silverstone) world to life.” 

Relive the Good Old Days With Nostalgia Marketing

As brands and agencies continue to target Millennials at a fever pitch, when done successfully, nostalgia marketing can capture consumers’ attention by striking an emotional cord conjuring up fond memories of their childhood in a way that other campaigns simply can’t.

In 2020, as society is dominated by impersonal communication online, take a trip down memory with nostalgia marketing experiences and activations that are “all that and a bag of chips.”

Clueless Cover
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