Nostalgia: The Newest Marketing Goldmine
People love a good throwback.
People definitely have a penchant for anything old school: movies, fashion, music, games… you name it. We tend to resonate more with things that evoke our sense of nostalgia, remind us of our long-lost youth, or capture a significant era in our colorful past.
No wonder nostalgia marketing has become such a big hit in the digital marketing world. It’s the hottest trend among brands right now—and as the days march on, more and more companies will likely turn to the “wayback machine” to cash in.
Why Are We So Nostalgia-Obsessed?
We can’t seem to shake off our obsession with the past—no matter how long ago it was. We keep remaking childhood-favorite films, reimagining classic sneaker designs, and recreating famous ‘90s looks. We enjoy grabbing pieces of the past and combining them with the present. Why is that?
As it turns out, we humans are nostalgic by nature. We’re predisposed to get lost in wistful reverie as a way to survive. According to recent research, nostalgia helps people find meaning in life through a sense of social connectedness and past-present self-continuity.
While this yearning for the past never really leaves us, it greatly intensified when the pandemic hit. In the late-stage of the global crisis—amid the isolation and uncertainty, we naturally gravitated towards positive and comforting memories of the past to cope with challenging times.
We began to seek solace and entertainment in our beloved shows, movies, games, and pastimes to escape boredom and gain a semblance of connection within the comfort of our homes. Apparently, nostalgia gives our lives meaning and restores our hopes for the future, according to the 2018 study Finding Meaning in Nostalgia.
In a way, it gives us a sense of hope and inspiration. The connection between our past and present drives positive and meaningful mental associations and feelings. This is why nostalgia marketing is one of the more powerful ways to capture the attention of consumers and influence their purchase decisions.
It’s a Retro Revolution.
Nostalgia marketing is an ode to the past. This approach combines elements of the past with concepts of the modern day. It’s often used to rebrand a company or product, launch a new campaign, celebrate a big milestone, or announce a change in business direction.
Brands use this marketing approach to cash in on concepts that are familiar, beloved, and of sentimental value to consumers, which is what makes it effective. In fact, an increasing number of brands are dropping their own nostalgia-themed products, campaigns, and services to expectant fans.
In 2020, Budweiser released their nostalgia-fueled campaign—a recreation of their iconic 1999 Wassup commercial. This ad, which shows a group of friends uttering “wassup” on their phones while enjoying a Budweiser and a game of sports, became an instant classic. Consumers were delighted to see this memorable ad again—and in HD during the pandemic.
In the same year, KFC rolled out holiday edition bucket designs from the ‘60s and ‘70s, alongside their new vintage-style design. The brand wanted to remind people of simpler eras and bring comfort to families amid our changing times. KFC made these nostalgia-inspired buckets a holiday-exclusive, which was effective in getting consumers to make a purchase.
And who could forget Burger King? The fast food chain made headlines in 2021 when it revived its old logo, recapturing the original look. While the unexpected rebrand was met with mixed reactions, Burger King stood its ground and said the flatter look was a representation of its new direction—clean, less processed food like in simpler times.
As major brands continue to create their own nostalgia-filled campaigns, smaller competitors are expected to follow suit. The pandemic might be over but consumers’ appetites for the good ol’ days remain as strong as ever.