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How effective is nostalgia as a marketing strategy?


Ah, memories! Marketers have been around for decades, and as customers grow savvy, they are forced to change up their strategies.

From bestowing information on products in lengthy infographics in newspapers to creating unrelated yet memorable TV ads to bursting onto socials to try to achieve some natural viral content, marketers constantly switch things up.

But, there is one undying strategy that works in marketing that has been used since the term was invented: the power of nostalgia. Thinking wistful thoughts about the past, relating products and services to a happier time, or simply throwing back to allow us to remember things have all been successful. So how is nostalgia used in marketing?

Nostalgic Brands

One of the primary uses of nostalgia in marketing is by referring to things from the past. This comes in the form of brands reverting back to their retro roots. The Co-Op reverted back to its traditional name after the 2007 The Co-Operative rebrands; Coca-Cola famously went back on its ‘New Coke’ marketing gimmick and managed to save the day thanks to the retro love of traditional coke; while Tesco is celebrating its 150th anniversary by throwing back to trends of the past, such as old motor cars, Morph, and Anneka Rice. Revitalising a brand by digging into the archives brings with it a host of memories for consumers. Many will have memories of the previous logos, without actively realising they had changed and will be flooded by (hopefully) positive emotions.

Nostalgic Products

Nostalgia also works when it comes to what brands are offering their customers. As Paddy Power Bingo illustrates, they have managed to take a traditional game that found its footing decades ago and modernize it to suit a digital audience. For example, some of there most popular titles are digitalisations of classic tabletop games, such as Blackjack, Baccarat, and Roulette.

In television, The Great British Bake-Off arguably re-popularized the trend of baking, which brought people memories of their youth and helped tie in with brands who sold baking ingredients and equipment.

Even the rise in vintage shops and the recycled vintage trends in fashion use nostalgia to sell their products. This works especially well as many people who opt to shop vintage won’t have any memories of their own of the period to be reminiscent of, so it’s good for brands to define, and often re-define, the contemporary retro aesthetic.

Nostalgia works by tapping into our emotions. We tend to view the past with rose-coloured glasses and feel positive about associations. So by advertising via customer memories, marketers are able to codify these positive feelings into their products or brands.

A cheap and effective brand strategy in any PR downtime is to march something out of the vault or ‘throwback’ to how something once was. There’s a reason why social media makes a point of reminding you of what you did ‘on this day’ – because we’re more likely to share the positive memory than we are to come up with some original content. This can loosely apply to brands too, who know that customers will have an existing connection with something through the nostalgic memories they have already manufactured themselves.

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