Nostalgia marketing has taken its hold as a rather effective marketing approach within advertising – particularly in recent years as the craze for things that are “˜retro’, “˜quaint’ or “˜old-school’ continues to grow.
What Is Nostalgia Marketing?
Nostalgic marketing is the use of old, familiar events (usually with positive connotations) in order to evoke feelings of comfort, security, fondness or excitement in one’s audience. The tactic has been a common practice within the advertising industry for years and can be a clever way of pushing out new campaigns with few resources. This is because much of the groundwork has already been laid by whatever person, event, product or franchise you are using to “˜piggy-back’ your campaign.
There are various ways to induce feelings of nostalgia in your audience and bring associations of class, timelessness and style to your brand. These may include:
- Paying homage to a famous historic event
- Reminiscing about an outdated food product, toy or kids’ TV show
- Improvising an “˜endorsement’ from an iconic celebrity
- Reliving an old campaign your company has used before
- Reviving an old product that was popular with your audience
- Using “˜retro style’ advertising to deliver a fresh campaign (like LinkedIn’s informational videos that spoofed the instructional shorts shown in the 1970s and 80s, or Mentos’ 2009 Brazilian ad that used a “˜VHS quality’ to draw attention of its customers).
However, not all brands have been known to get this type of marketing right, and there have indeed been some disastrous consequences resulting from misalignment of values; difference in social norms since twenty years ago, and irresponsibility when it comes to the legacy of another person or franchise. If you’re considering the nostalgia route to gain traction with customers, here are some tips you should think about.
1.Â Â Â Â Pinpoint Your Inspiration.
Why do you think nostalgia is the right selling point for your product or brand? Why now; why this campaign? Some possible reasons for rolling out a nostalgic campaign may be:
- A high customer demand for an old product or service (a perfect example of this being the Cadbury Wispa revival, which resulted from customers begging the brand to return the bars to the shelves)
- A special company milestone you may wish to commemorate, such as a birthday or hitting a target number of customers
- The need to give your product or brand a fresh image that will reinstate it within the hearts of your customers and accelerate authenticity and (on some level) originality.
2.Â Â Â Â Stay In Character.
If you’re choosing to bounce your campaign off of an existing franchise, be sure that you go with one that tangible relates to your product and aligns almost seamlessly with your existing company values.
You wouldn’t see a superimposed image of Linda McCartney being used to sell leather products, for example (although this particular scenario is exaggerated). It pays to imagine who would be willing to celebrate your brand if they were alive today, to make it natural and realistic. Remember you are trying to engage with customers, not piss them off.
3.Â Â Â Â Leave A Clean, Respectful Trail.
A “˜fake endorsement’ campaign should be tasteful and appeal not just to fans of your own products, but to the fans of the brand you are piggy-backing off of. Some critics complain that nostalgia marketing is a cheap and lazy way of promoting a new product; this is wrong. It’s only cheap if it fails to respect another legacy and endeavour to show it in a positive light along with your product.
Volkswagen was one company to get this wrong with its “˜Anti Retro’ campaign, which used overdubbed interview footage of John Lennon and Marilyn Monroe to promote, in an ironic sense, newness and innovation – the opposite of retro. Lennon fans were outraged and hit out at Yoko Ono and Lennon’s son, accusing them of “˜cheapening’ the John Lennon name.
You don’t want a tirade of angry protestors to rebel against your product, so think carefully about how fans of the franchise might react. Jack Daniels stayed in the clear when it marketed a special blend of whiskey to commemorate the 100th birthday of Frank Sinatra. Everybody knows that Jack Daniels was, at one time, the singer’s favourite tipple of choice; therefore the brand couldn’t be accused of drawing false ties.
4.Â Â Â Â Consider The Current Environment.
When rolling out revived campaigns that may have proved effective in the past, check that its values can still resonate positively with today’s audiences, both culturally and socially. Sometimes even the most successful of campaigns can look starkly different when placed against today’s commercial backdrop – one only needs to cast their eyes over many of the sexist ads that roamed the 40s and 50s.
Consider what has changed since the campaign was last seen, and whether any of its language, connotations, visual content or underlying selling point would be likely to cause offence in today’s market.
5.Â Â Â Â Add Something Different.
When implementing a nostalgic campaign, don’t simply rehash the same old content – it is innovation only that moves us forward. Think about how the ad could be integrated into today’s market in a way that modern audiences can relate to. How would you approach it if rolling out the campaign for the first time?
When Pepsi released their Pepsi Throwback campaign, not only did they deliver the old product (Pepsi in its original packaging and made with real sugar instead of fructose, as it is today), but they also added a digital element that allowed social media users to interact and engage. The Pepsi Throwback Facebook page allowed users to compete for prizes by playing old Atari arcade games and fans could vote for which games they wished to play next. (Read more about how extra content can lead to increased customer retention.)
Volkswagen’s “˜Singin’ In The Rain’ ad using Mint Royale’s remixed version of the famous song and reanimated footage of Gene Kelly also invited positive reactions, whilst bearing the slogan, “˜The original, updated’.
About the Author
Adele Halsall is a writer and researcher for Customer Service Guru. She is passionate about retail and consumer trends, and how this is shaped and governed by advertising and social marketing. She is particularly experienced in marketing and customer engagement, and enjoys contributing to ongoing debates related to best business practices, start-up culture, and the culture of customer relations. Currently she is working as content manager at Assignyourwriter.co and enjoys it very much!