How Brands Can Leverage Nostalgia for Modern Success

Understanding why we are enamored with the past and how to use it

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Brands, marketers and content creators alike have come to recognize that strolling down memory lane can be a powerful tool when working to form an emotional connection with consumers. While past memories constantly impinge on the present, it’s only natural to question why we’re so obsessed with connecting the two.

By definition, nostalgia marketing can be described as “tapping into positive cultural memories from previous decades, designed to drive energy to modern campaigns.” Historically, nostalgia has been used to connect with older brand loyalists.

Customers often find warmth and comfort in memories, as they’re usually associated with fond experiences or feelings. The fact that social media is redefining what’s deemed as the past, however, helps prove that tapping into nostalgia can be inclusive rather than alienating.

Here are some of the most memorable nostalgic campaigns and best practices to implement these feelings to create successful campaigns in the future.

Many ways to get nostalgic

According to GlobalWebIndex, 8 in 10 people say they experience feelings of nostalgia (no matter how strong) at least occasionally. The best use of nostalgia in the media is not forced, but organic.

For example, take the #ShareACoke campaign. Coca-Cola created an emotional connection between audiences with different mindsets and worldviews through shared compassion and interests in enjoying a soda together.

The first-of-its-kind campaign celebrated the power of one’s first name in a playful, social way and also elicited that childhood feeling of finding your name on a keychain or souvenir in an unfamiliar place.

When brands rerelease exclusive items, it can help fuel sales and reengage customers who have been historically loyal to a brand. Nike is a prime example of this tactic, as evidenced through its “retro” release models, selling new sneaker colorways curated after the original shoes’ release.

Companies are also implementing nostalgia within their advertisements in a variety of ways to resonate with consumers. Cheetos recently stole the spotlight with its Super Bowl commercial that featured a superstar cast answering what to do when you get caught secretly eating the cheesy snack to the lyrics of Shaggy’s hit song “It Wasn’t Me,” commemorating the 20th anniversary of the song and generating a surge in social buzz.

Tugging on those heart strings

To create a successful campaign, it’s imperative to capitalize on collective memories with a keen attention to detail. The key is understanding what motivates your audience and thinking about what may pull on their emotional heartstrings the most.

A little research goes a long way, and by looking into the generational breakdown of your customers, brands have the ability to resonate endlessly by selecting the right items, styles and pop culture references. Sometimes, the immediate goal may no longer be transactional, but instead to produce lighthearted entertainment breaks for a target audience. This creates shareable content with the ability to inspire positive sentiment for your brand.

Don’t be afraid to pull out the archives to get inspired.

Humanizing your brand or product is another great strategy for implementing nostalgia successfully. Whether it’s putting a face to your brand, emphasizing a positive mission or bringing different audiences together, relatability has a longlasting effect.

The holiday season can be a peak time for brands to elicit an emotional response, tapping into sentiment and consumers’ mindset. Thinking about how your target market reacts to the cultural norms and traditions that take place during the holiday season is a great way to elicit nostalgic moments that are relatable to audiences.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to pull out the archives to get inspired. If your brand is willing to share its own memories and history, it can be effective to not only show evolution but inspire other projects that can be beneficial to your business.

Returning to a brand’s original logo or reengaging with parts of its history can also be great tools for reminding consumers of the relationship they had with the brand.

In short, nostalgia sells

Recently, we’ve seen a resurgence in the use of nostalgia, especially when consumers are experiencing collective feelings or going through turbulent times. It’s no surprise that the concept has seen huge success in the past year, whether it’s the chance to remember something in a different light, make a completely new memory, or just spark a moment of joy and reflection on what seemed like a simpler, easier time.