Seven Brands That Are Winning With Nostalgia

Living in the past isn’t such a bad thing

For some of the biggest consumer brands, nostalgia is anything but yesterday’s news.

In a study of brands that had consumers buzzing during the first quarter, NBCUniversal Integrated Media noticed that those connecting to the past resonated strongly with consumers and shot to the top of its Brand Power Index (BPI). Every quarter, the BPI ranks the most talked about brands as determined by factors like social media buzz and online searches, comparing their scores to the previous three months.

One brand looking back was Jack Daniel’s, whose “Legend” campaign from Arnold Worldwide, Boston, which broke in March, features a sentimental sampling of images and music from Mudhoney to Joey Ramone. (The voiceover intones, “He sat in on countless legendary recordings. He played with some of the biggest names in rock ’n’ roll. … His name is Jack.”) The campaign came on the heels of a special Sinatra-branded whiskey launched in December.

Jack Daniel’s


Tennessee’s favorite whiskey went classic cool with a special edition to mark Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday, and to celebrate Ol’ Blue Eyes’ 50-year relationship with the brand. Launched last December at Las Vegas’ airport with interactive stations for tasting, viewing and listening to all things Frank, the initiative expanded to 200 airports in Q1, coinciding with the evocative “Legend” campaign. Nostalgia hit a high note with consumers—Jack rose 27 percent in the BPI in Q1 versus Q4 of last year.

Microsoft Windows


To promote the latest version of Internet Explorer, Microsoft took consumers—especially those who happened to grow up in the ’90s—on a time-traveling journey via a two-minute video sporting “You grew up. So did we” as a tagline. From Lunchables to pumpable sneakers, trolls to fanny packs, browsing the past worked: The video went viral and both Microsoft and Microsoft Windows jumped 18 percent in the BPI in Q1 versus Q4 of last year.



The fast-food chain connected past and present to introduce its Fan of the Week customer-loyalty program and to mark 2 million fans on Facebook. Arby’s searched for the individual who was its2-millionth customer in 1970—and found her: Donell Norblom of Denver. A video ad showed Norblom becoming the 2-millionth Arby’s fan on Facebook. The campaign led to a 25 percent hike in brand buzz among male consumers.

Photos: Joshua Scott; Styling: Kira Corbin



To mark its 55th anniversary, everybody’s favorite childhood toy also merged old and new. The company challenged consumers to decipher 55 images depicting iconic cultural references made from Lego on digital posters disseminated via Tumblr and other social media platforms. Evoking childhood stories such as The Three Little Pigs and classic flicks like King Kong and Jaws gave the brand a 19 percent bump in consumer interest.

Herbal Essences


This shampoo brand took a page from its own early-’90s playbook in the relaunch of its Shine and Smooth collection, complete with original fragrances and packaging. To support the throwback, the Procter & Gamble brand riffed on its own classic spot featuring a woman so enamored of the product she exclaims “Yes, yes, YES!” The blast from the past scored a bouncy 27 percent jump in brand affinity in the first quarter.

Sony PlayStation


In its countdown to the launch of PlayStation 4, Sony created a YouTube campaign chronicling the evolution of the iconic gaming console, featuring a series of videos spanning the product’s 19-year history. The brand ran a concurrent social media campaign encouraging fans to tweet about their favorite PlayStation moments using the hashtag #playstationmemory. The result: PlayStation scored a 19 percent gain in the BPI.

Old Navy


The retail chain has had a long love affair with nostalgia, and turned to ’80s pop culture once again in its latest campaign. Its current crop of ads taps the likes of Airplane’s Julie Hagerty, who played a scatterbrained stewardess in the beloved movie spoof, and The A Team’s Mr. T to infuse its marketing messages with retro fun. Old Navy enjoyed 13 percent greater consumer chatter as a result. Good stuff? Roger that.


Methodology: The NBCU Brand Power Index is an analysis of 500 brands and is based on a compilation of online search data from Comscore, social media buzz data from New Media Strategies, as well person-to-person conversations tracked by Keller Fay Group.