Friends Lives On! Why Nostalgia Is So Important to a Brand

Looking back can help a brand when the path forward gets bumpy.

Turn on the TV at any point during the day and chances are you can find an episode of an old favorite: the episode of Seinfeld where Kramer pitches a cologne that smells like the beach; the Cosby Show episode where Cliff gives Theo a lesson in money; that Friends where Ross whitens his teeth.

The ladies of Friends took a walk down memory lane during a recent skit on Jimmy Kimmel LiveIn a replica of the show’s kitchen, 10 years after the show went off the air and 20 years after it debuted, the scene — as ridiculous as it was — still managed to draw loud cheers from the crowd and lead to more than 1.3 million YouTube hits.

While it may seem a little pointless to still be talking about the show, this sort of passion is valuable to a brand. It can sustain a fan base and a career through thick and thin.

It also inspires very odd BuzzFeed quizzes.

Friends opened doors for all of the actors on the show. Arguably, none of the players have matched their popularity on the show since. Even Jennifer Aniston, who has a thriving career in films, many of them mediocre, has not reached the point she did when the whole world wore “the Rachel” and rooted for her relationship with Ross.

But their roles on that program have sustained them through cancelled programs, box office flops and time out of the spotlight. When things aren’t looking good, there’s always Friends there as a reminder of why you liked these actors in the first place. Feelings for Friends are so strong, Eight O’Clock coffee is installing a pop-up version of Central Perk, the famous Friends coffee shop, in downtown Manhattan for four weeks. Guaranteed, there will be a line out the door every day of its run.

The same thing goes for other brands. Twinkies made a comeback this year, based largely on the strong feelings that fans have about the cakes. Chevy often taps into its deep roots in American car history in its ads. And the latest Froot Loops ad is all about how much adults used to enjoy the cereal when they were kids.

A brand can’t calcify into something that never changes with the times. And there needs to be a self-awareness about a brand’s place in culture. (Aniston’s throwing of the Rachel wig shows that she knows there are some things about Friends that really do need to die.) But, every once in a while, tapping into the memory of what people liked about a piece of entertainment, a product or an experience can remind fans why they should stick with you even if whatever is happening now isn’t as good as what was going on before.

[H/T BuzzFeed]