Have you ever heard an old song on the radio which took you back a decade ago, when it used to be a part of the soundtrack of your life? Have you ever walked down a street when your nose suddenly caught a waft of a familiar perfume, the one your high school sweetheart used to wear? Have you ever gone through old boxes in your parents’ home, and come across a pack of old letters from an old friend?
We all feel nostalgic sometimes, when we encounter certain objects, smells, tastes, sounds or people from our past. The word nostalgia comes from Greek – where the two words “nóstos” (homecoming) and “álgos” (pain, ache) had been combined to express that bittersweet pain of coming back home after an absence, and remembering the past.
Our nostalgic memories are usually positive ones, which explains why nostalgia often has a positive, soothing effect on us. An improved mood, a boost in self esteem, a decrease in stress and positive feelings about the future are only a few of the positive effects of nostalgia. Remembering positive things from the past can help us feel better in the present, so nostalgia can actually serve a defense mechanism, protecting us from bad memories by flooding us with good ones.
Nostalgia can serve as an excellent marketing tool; in fact, it has been used in marketing and advertising for a long time. Nostalgia marketing brings up positive memories in the target audience, which can trigger feelings of warmth, security, comfort or excitement. The strong impact these feelings have on us might just make us buy the product or the service being advertised.
Even on Mad Men, a TV series which is based on the past, Don Draper uses nostalgia in an ad for a slide projector:
Nostalgia marketing can be done in many ways: from keeping the original packaging of certain products unchanged (or re-introducing it to bring back past clients) and bringing back old products by popular demand, to ads which feature characters from old films and TV shows or using old songs for jingles.
Nostalgic trends can even be witnessed in social networks: Instagram’s various filters which can make any photo look like it was taken decades ago; Facebook’s Memories, which show us what we shared on this day two, five or seven years ago; and, of course, popular hashtags like #throwbackthursday (#TBT for short) or #flashbackfriday (#FBF for short), which are often used when posting old photos or videos.
Check out this #TBT post from Tennis star Venus Williams, which shows a photo from the start of her career:
Brands use nostalgia for a reason – its effectiveness in marketing has been proven in research. A study which was published in the Journal of Consumer Research in 2014 showed that people who were asked to conjure up nostalgic memories were willing to pay a higher price for a set of products, compared to people who were asked to to think about the present or the future. The study also found that people who recalled a nostalgic event showed more willingness to donate their money later.
According to a study from 2010, called Nostalgia booming in marketing communication: does it matter in retro branding activities?, a “retro” branding approach may be suitable for times of financial recession (like the present), since it can help foster feelings of security for consumers.
The evidence and examples above show us that nostalgic marketing can be great for brands. So how is it done? Here are some ways to inject a “good ol’ times” vibe into your marketing:
Many brands are aware of the power of nostalgia and use it to their advantage. Nike, for example, likes to recreate old models of its shoes – which Nike fans go crazy for. The Jordan series, originally created in the 1980s, is now a brand within Nike, with shoes being purchased by both collectors and people who’ve missed their signature look.
Nike has even opened an Instagram account by the name of jumpman23, which is dedicated to the Jordan brand and occasionally features the original Jordan – Michael Jordan – who’s given inspiration to these shoes:
Internet Explorer, the browser many people feel very strongly about (and not in a positive way), tried to reminisce with us about the 1990s in this ad from 2013:
In 2014, Calvin Klein collaborated with online fashion store MyTheresa.com in a campaign that revived items from its unforgettable 1994 collection – the one which presented supermodel Kate Moss to the world. The clothes were all brand new, of course; but they were made of the same fabrics which had been used to create the original collection two decades ago.
And the model showcasing the collection? No other than Lottie Moss – Kate’s younger sister!
Websites like BuzzFeed also like using nostalgia. A genre of posts that is wildly popular in BuzzFeed and similar websites is lists commemorating popular trends from decades past – from Barbies to boy bands. In fact, BuzzFeed has a whole section dedicated to those nostalgic lists, called Rewind.
A typical nostalgic list on BuzzFeed Rewind:
So how can you follow in these brands’ footsteps and leverage the power of nostalgia in your marketing? This list of “do’s” and “don’ts” might help.
Nostalgia can be a goldmine for your brand; in an age of financial and social instability, people crave anything that will make them feel all cozy and warm inside, and remind them of better days. Do you know brands that use nostalgia in their marketing? Have you encountered nostalgic campaigns which you like in particular? Tell us in the comments!
Hi, I'm Dafna Ben-Yehoshua, Content Manager at 3 Door Digital. After completing my M. Sc. in Biology, and trying out various occupations from being a zoo guide to working as an English teacher, I decided to settle on writing. I believe that any subject can be written about in a creative, fascinating manner while bringing into it the writer's unique point of view. My greatest joy in writing is seeing how something I write exposes the readers to new ideas and perspectives.