The 2020 Boom of Nostalgia Marketing
Kate Everett, managing partner at TWI takes a trip down memory lane.
Did you know yearning for the past was considered a mental disorder back in the 17th century? When, in 1688, Swiss physician Johannes Hofer was attempting to understand why quite so many soldiers needed to return home, he labelled the sensation ’Nostalgia’ and considered it to be a cerebral disease. Fast forward 330-odd years and nostalgia is a socially acceptable way to seek comfort in fond memories of the past. We see this particular yearning as a comfort, a socially acceptable way to sigh wistfully, and dream of past Christmas mornings, old Disney movies and ice cream, particularly in the most stressful moments of our lives. And nostalgia marketing is a big commercial win too
What is Nostalgia Marketing?
Nostalgia marketing is the advertising equivalent of a steaming big mug of your favourite soup on a cold day. At a time when everything has to be faster, better, bigger, more, nostalgia marketing transports us back to a simpler time, when simple pleasures made everything feel okay.
By persuading consumers that their worries of the now can melt away in a moment, businesses can deliver their marketing message to a more receptive customer and deliver a feeling that will last much longer than the moment.
When I hear the words nostalgia marketing, I immediately picture a young lad in a baker’s apron pushing an old bicycle up a cobbled street. I’m throwing you backwards in time thinking about a product I can still buy today – Hovis bread. This is nostalgic marketing at its finest, and an image that is still used on the Hovis website, remade in 2019.
The key to nostalgic marketing is in understanding what motivates your audience, thinking about how they were raised and where their deepest emotional receptors truly lie. A little research goes a long way, and by looking into the generational breakdown of your customers, you can much more easily learn what might make each of them tick.
Whilst pondering this question of motivation, I asked around the office and these were a few of the suggestions,
Janice, Office Manager (Baby Buster): “Diet Coke. Let’s be realistic, who doesn’t like a diet coke break advert from the nineties – seriously, what’s not to like?”
Ness, projects manager (Xennial) “For me, it has got to be the Yellow Pages J. R. Hartley advert from 1983. Quality sweetness topped off with the irony that an author didn’t keep back a copy of his own book, gets me every time.”
Ellie, account manager (Millennial): “The best six-word advert EVER – Jaffa Cakes – Full moon, half moon, total eclipse. It’s cheeky and always makes me smile.”
It’s interesting that years, or even decades later, these memories of adverts are so clear and still evoke an immediate smile or a feeling. We wonder if the advertisers realised at the time what a good return on investment their campaigns would still deliver many years on.
Why are we getting all nostalgic again?
So, why is nostalgia marketing booming in the 21st century? One school of thought is that the more frantic, complex and responsibility filled our lives become, the more we yearn for simpler times. Nostalgia’s lens often makes products and services seem more down to earth, and therefore more achievable or affordable. By bridging the gap between the past and the present, brands can impact valuable consumer groups like Millennials with positive references from the eighties and nineties.
Statistics published in Marketing Week Magazine show that nostalgia marketing can even be attributed to science. Whilst there is no Golden Age, the nineties is currently the most fondly remembered decade, closely followed by the eighties, seventies and sixties. Although the fifties and noughties provoke less positivity, it will be interesting to see the change over time as new generations grow into more mature consumers.
Create a winning nostalgic marketing strategy
- Pay attention to the finer details – those nuances that will really strike a chord with your customers. This could be anything from a backdrop to an accent.
- Mix it up a bit – use nostalgia within your social media posts – maybe make nostalgic posts part of your regular content, like #tbt
- Do some research and find out what makes your audience feel something special. Look at dates in history or even your own timeline.
- Go through the archives and dig out those old photos and film clips – marketing gold dust!
- Maybe look at how your own brand has evolved over the years? It’s a fun project to do for the business.
- See if you can expand on any of your own brand history. Maybe then against now, or footage of your early days. We really liked the Patak’s campaign, explored here in Campaign Live.
Note from Kate: this was written just before we went into Covid-19 imposed isolation, but if anything, nostalgia marketing is even more relevant in the new landscape we find ourselves in. This is a great time to reflect, review and plan for the future and our creative team is still very much in force to help you. Get in touch if you fancy a virtual coffee and a trip down memory lane.