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Nostalgia Marketing Strategy: Looking backwards to go forwards

The power of nostalgia marketing strategy. You hear a song come on the radio or smell the soothing scent of cinnamon. Suddenly memories come flooding back, making you yearn for yesterday.

Maybe it hasn’t happened like this, but you’ve probably felt something similar recently as most people experience nostalgia at least once a week. Turns out that these bittersweet floods of feeling are actually pretty great for you. Not only can they give your mood a boost, but they can also have positive effects on your physical health.

And that’s not all nostalgia does, either. Savvy marketers have taken to turning feelings of yearning for the “good old days” into wildly effective marketing strategies. We’re going to help you stay on top of the latest marketing trends by diving deep into the basics of nostalgia marketing. How and why it’s become such a huge success, and what steps you can take to make it a part of your strategy.

What Is Nostalgia Marketing Strategy? Much like emotional marketing, nostalgia marketing seeks to form an emotional connection with an audience to create a good impression of a brand. However, drawing on the power of nostalgia means that there is already an emotional connection available for advertisers to work with. And that connection – having been built over the consumer’s lifetime – is much stronger than any artificial emotions an ad or commercial can generate. In a nutshell, the goal of nostalgia marketing is to capture consumer attention by giving them a blend of old and familiar elements mixed with fresh products or services.

“Nostalgia marketing is the marketing equivalent of comfort food.”

How (and Why) It Really Works Why does a whiff of baking bread whisk you back to the European café you visited once on vacation. Why do past memories of the holidays come flooding back when you take a stroll down the toy aisle? How is it that seemingly innocuous sights, smells, tastes, and sounds become so irrevocably linked with certain memories from our pasts? That’s the power of nostalgia.

Nostalgia marketing strategy works by associating happy memories and emotions with a brand. It’s sort of like transferring those feelings of trust and happiness from your old memories onto something new. Those positive emotions leave consumers open to brand messages and make them more willing to spend.

It’s really an ingenious means of marketing because it’s two-fold. It offers consumers the immediate reward of recalling happy memories, which makes them more likely to identify with your product or brand. Additionally, targeting customers during times of positive emotions often leads to increased trust, which translates to dedicated consumers.

Now, we know what you’re thinking: how in the world can nostalgia accomplish all that? To understand why nostalgia marketing works, you must understand how nostalgia works. Nostalgia begins with a positive or neutral trigger. For example, a familiar sound, smell, conversation, or even just by thinking about the past. Once a nostalgic experience is triggered, your body begins to react by activating your brain’s reward centres to create positive feelings and emotions. Our bodies crave these feelings because they help protect us from less positive emotions.

It should come as no surprise that nostalgia marketing is so successful in our turbulent and busy world. It offers consumers a respite from modern-day worries, allowing them to sink peacefully into the comfort of yesterday, even if just for a moment.

The Benefits of Nostalgia Marketing Strategy Aside from those discussed above, utilising nostalgia marketing in your next advertising campaign can offer some exceptional benefits, including:

  • More authentic campaigns. What better way to demonstrate your authenticity than by meeting consumers on a common ground? Nostalgia marketing helps advertisers humanise their brand and make it reach consumers.

  • Greater reach. Incorporating a bit of nostalgia marketing in your next campaign could allow you to reach one of the most lucrative demographics. The millennial. Unlike other generations, millennials have constant access to the past via new technologies. This makes them more open to nostalgia marketing tactics.

  • A unique appeal. Nostalgia marketing combines the safety and success of the past with the excitement of something new.

  • Building a stronger connection with consumers. Impersonal marketing is a thing of the past – what consumers want are brands that speak to them. Nostalgia marketing helps to humanise your brand and build meaningful connections between you and your customers.

  • Greater shareability. Consumers are much more likely to talk about products or events that make them nostalgic, and nostalgia marketing seeks to tie those talking points to your brand. Customers are more willing to share your brand with family, friends, or on social media if it hits their nostalgic spot.

  • The ability to reach consumer emotions. The holy grail of marketing occurs when your brand is able to make an emotional connection with a customer. Nostalgia marketing makes this easier by incorporating existing emotional connections into a campaign.

Do Businesses Really Use This? Examples of Nostalgia Marketing Strategy

Coca-Cola Every year, Coca-Cola launches its nostalgic Christmas line of drinks, instantly transporting us back to the past. Occasionally, however, they take it one step further. During the 2014 Surge revival, Coca-Cola brought back a discontinued line of drinks (Surge) at the request of customers and saw wild success.

Adobe After Netflix brought Bob Ross into the public eye (again), Adobe capitalised on the trending artist by incorporating his style in their marketing strategy. A big win for Adobe as Bob Ross not only proved to be a great nostalgia magnet, but the fact that he was already popular on social media meant that their marketing campaign was a success before it even started.

Disney What’s more nostalgic than the movies that you watched as a child? Rather than reinventing the wheel, these days Disney has devoted themselves to giving some of their most beloved children’s movies a new look. Unsurprisingly, these live-action remakes have been (for the most part) extremely popular.

Developing an Effective Strategy: Your Steps for Success Any brand can utilise nostalgia marketing. There are a few things you should do if you want your campaign to succeed.

Like any good marketing strategy, the key to success is to understand your audience. Once you know your target demographic, it is important to understand what motivates them, what events are likely to have left an impact on them, and what they want for the future. Nostalgia marketing takes time, but more than that it takes authenticity. If you can’t articulate why it will work well for your campaign, don’t force it. Consumers can usually tell when brands attempt to manipulate emotions.

If you decide to utilise nostalgia marketing, you may find it useful to use social media sites to gain a better understanding of what is popular at the moment. This will help you design a new marketing campaign that will quickly be pertinent to a wide range of consumers. You can choose to implement nostalgia marketing in a variety of ways, from using your brand’s history to draw a picture of how far your business has come to appealing to consumers’ own experiences, to isolating a specific cultural event or person that your audience will identity with. No matter how you choose to implement, it’s imperative that your tactics and message fit your brand voice and personality. Consistency is key as any disconnect between your campaign and values may leave customers confused or upset.

Look Backwards to Go Forwards Done well, nostalgia marketing can succeed where other marketing tactics fail. It creates a deep and lasting personal connection between your brand and your customers. It offers a way for you to connect emotionally with your audience, to create micro-moments of joy, and to generate more trust and satisfaction with your brand.

Sometimes the fastest way to influence a person’s future is to speak to their past. With nostalgia marketing, brands can do just that.

To learn more about nostalgia marketing listen to our podcast episode 1.

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