Nostalgia marketing can be a cure in dark times
I get a kick out of old family photos. When visiting kin, it is normal for me to take photographs off the walls and extract them from albums so I can take my own digital copies. I ask a lot of questions of older relatives, too. They put up with me until they grow sleepy, then excuse themselves for naps. It makes me feel connected to my greater family. Since I was a boy, I’ve longed to go back in time and meet my ancestors. That’s nostalgia.
Two hundred years ago, nostalgia was associated with melancholy, an important topic in Romanticism. And a hundred years back nostalgia was considered a condition requiring medical treatment. Nowadays, nostalgia is getting a better reputation. Recent studies are finding it can actually be beneficial to our health, as it seems to promote psychological well-being and positive feelings.
The mind works to promote our survival. When required, this can mean remembering negative experiences, but the mind is predisposed to put us in a positive mood. A happier person finds more reasons to live. When negative emotions are present, they are mostly mitigated by positive ones, such as finding triumph over adversity. Some refer to nostalgia as a natural anti-depressant.
Nostalgia is important for another reason: it provides a link between who we were and who we are. It creates a sense of continuity and meaning. Researchers say that “nostalgia is now emerging as a fundamental human strength.”
That is the main reason nostalgia makes a comeback in marketing during tough times (such as now). Our minds are working to keep us positive, and companies are providing comfort through retro marketing.
Last month, Elisabeth Sullivan of Marketing News magazine provided a nice piece on the retro resurgence (available to members through the American Marketing Association). General Mills is reissuing vintage cereal packaging, as are Pepsi and Mountain Dew. Allstate has a “Back to Basics” campaign. Nationwide insurance is giving new prominence to its traditional jingle, “Nationwide is on Your Side.” Target is featuring retro toys such as sock monkeys. Cotton Inc is resurrecting its “Fabric of our Lives” campaign from two decades ago, finding it still resonates with women now in their 20s and 30s. The list goes on, as featured in a recent New York Times article.
How might retro help your marketing aspirations?
1. Dig into your archives. Revive old slogans, jingles, and campaigns. Concentrate on those that represent the peak of your popularity.
2. Take advantage of your own business’s longevity. Remind customers that you’ve been by their side as they grew up, went to school, came of age, etc. This is an opportunity to build trust, so be sure these factors are authentic, and suit your product. For example, be careful of using retro marketing with anything related to high-tech.
3. Retro is more successful when it presents something old in a new way. Louis Vuitton has done a wonderful job of this with a recent campaign, “some journeys change mankind forever,” featuring famous astronauts.
In researching this blog, I found a similar warning about the danger of misusing nostalgia marketing, specifically that if not done right, it can look out-of-date or outmoded. Frankly, I can’t find any examples of this. My recommendation is to jump in and see if the water is to your liking. Nostalgia marketing is not for everybody and not for every project, but for using the past in marketing, there’s no time like the present.