- Georgia Adsett /
- Opinion /
- 26-10-22 /
Nostalgia marketing: why we look back in turbulent times
There’s something happening in the UK right now. An undercurrent of dissatisfaction is soaking our everyday lives. From protests, to Union Strikes and the revolt against living conditions; rising bills and fluctuating taxes are being felt acutely against the backdrop of Covid lockdowns, political tensions and fear. Brands are increasingly turning to nostalgia marketing to authentically inject positive emotion into campaigns and avoid appearing tone deaf to the current climate.
It’s a wise move, because audiences are pining harder than ever for the past, which means they’re more likely to respond positively to nostalgic campaigns. According to the Journal of Consumer Research, people are more willing to spend money on a product when the brand makes them feel nostalgic – people have a 3 x higher lifetime value with brands they emotionally connect with. Nostalgia evokes feelings of comfort and reassurance. When the world feels a little spiky, we crave this.
As consumers, when engaging in comparative thinking, we often solely focus on the positive aspects of the past and forget our former woes. This is actually a survival tactic, whereby our brain is making us aware of present threats. This process often happens unconsciously, leading us to wallow in nostalgia. Bingo. Nostalgia is the shortcut to emotional engagement. According to APG’s ‘How Not To Plan’, nostalgia marketing offers mental shortcuts that make purchase decisions quicker and easier in overcrowded and stressed minds. It taps into ‘System 1 thinking where 95% of brain activity takes place, experienced as feelings, intuitions and habits’ (APG, 2018).
This manifests in two ways: brand-centric (internal) and customer-centric (external). For brand-centric campaigns, nostalgia is evoked from an established brand’s creative repertoire, former logos, slogans etc, whereas as customer-centric campaigns can be derived from influential cultural references of a set.
How can it come to life?
There are several examples of activation strategies and outputs that brands can draw on if they are considering the use of nostalgic marketing. In a nutshell, these are:
Campaign strategy, concepts and creative – like GWR’s ‘Famous Five’ ad, or Tanqueray’s ‘Since 1830’ ad.
Brand identity – often achieved by bringing back former logos or slogans.
Sonic triggers – often achieved through use of nostalgic / popular music in video, TV or Radio ads, like Cadbury’s 2017 ad ‘Yes Sir, I Can Boogie’.
Packaging and design – such as the UK army’s ‘Snowflake’ recruitment campaign, bred from Lord Kitchener’s first world war poster, or Heinz’s ‘100 years’ ketchup ad.
Events – like ComedyCentral’s FriendsFest tapping into the cosy familiar setting of Central Perk.
Product re-release – often achieved by re-releasing former popular products – Fujifilm’s Instax Polaroid camera offers the same classic function in an evolved design, whilst Nokia’s 2021 rerelease of the 6310 handset celebrates 20 years since its launch.
Examples of nostalgia marketing in action
M&S – bring back ‘This is not just food’
A fantastic brand-centric campaign example is M&S’s relaunch of ‘This is not just food’. First launched in 2004, the ads originally saw huge success boosting sales of featured products; sales of that sexy chocolate melt pudding soared by 3,500%. The reinvigorated ad evolved to retain the brand’s infamous former slogan, but the tongue in cheek twist sees everyday people voicing it, playing on its memorability and humour.
Bacardi – campaign creative nods to glamour of the 50’s
For their 150th anniversary back in 2012, Bacardi released a series of print and television ads showcasing the brand’s party-starting heritage. The trip down memory lane was intended to give the company a shot of authenticity, reminding consumers that Bacardi has stood the test of time.
Adidas Samba – an iconic design brought back into circulation
Adidas’ Samba has made a killer comeback, with Design House collaborations in circulation and stars and supermodels like Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Zoë Kravitz and Rihanna sporting the shoe. The product, originally designed for indoor and outdoor soccer players (source) is now infiltrating a more affluent, fashion-oriented audience, showing that nostalgic designs still firmly hold their place. According to Vice, ‘The Samba’s gritty appeal is also part of the shoe’s history. Think Ewan McGregor as Mark Renton in Trainspotting—he wears burgundy Samba Supers throughout the whole film. The shoes have an edgy, punk-adjacent allure that feels perfectly matched with his shaved head, deviant-sexy misadventures, and the soundtrack of “Born Slippy.” – what a tune.
Burger King – a retro logo given a new lease of life
Burger King’s retro logo was also brought back last year. It’s simpler in style with a paired back, punchier colour palette primed for digital usage. Agency Creative Director Lisa Smith explains that various designs were worked up before the team decided to move back to the brand’s original logo of 1969 to 1994 when Burger King “looked its best”. We can see how this refined articulation has clearly derived from the original form, removing the slightly dated ‘sheen’ and more closely resembling the brand product itself.
Is nostalgic marketing right for your brand?
Before you launch full-speed into nostalgic marketing campaign ideas, you should establish four crucial things…
- The challenge: Identify the business problem you are trying to solve and whether nostalgic marketing is relevant to your brand goal
- Audience: Establish your target audience and segment appropriately
- Context: Establish the nostalgic era of interest and why – when was your target audience’s golden era? What about the time do they see through rose-tinted glasses? Or, what was a strength of your brand at that time? Get researching.
- Strategy: Establish which nostalgic activation strategy and channels are most appropriate and relevant to your brand product or service and campaign
So whether you’re tossing up nostalgia marketing or thinking up something completely fresh, remember to ask yourself what your consumers really want. Emotions will always sell – especially in turbulent times like these.
Ready to find out if nostalgia marketing is right for you? You know what to do.