What is nostalgia marketing?

Google dictionary describes nostalgia as ‘a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past.’ Nostalgia evokes a certain sort of personal attachment in someone’s life from their past, which provides a happy and joyful feeling. Advertisers are always trying to unlock that same feeling with their consumers, as this is a way to make them feel attached on a more personal level to both product and business. So how do advertisers commercialize on this passion for the past? How impactful is it? What is nostalgic marketing, and how does it work?  

My first choice on this list that uses nostalgia, is actually from the well-known marketing powerhouse Coca-Cola. The company always finds a way to move with the times and in doing so its consumers. Everyone, alive today has an early memory of drinking a coke. The marketing team certainly uses this to their advantage. Coca-Cola’s iconic look comes in that contoured glass bottle. However, with time the brand has moved with culture and made a conscious decision to be more aware of the effects of global warming and stop the production of these glass bottles. Reasoning Glass bottles are much more expensive to recycle, store and transport. Also due to the bottles being glass, they ran the risk of shattering, causing safety problems. However, in 2012 at the dawn of the 2000s obsession with ‘going back to the 90s’ the brand noticed this shift in the atmosphere and reintroduced these iconic glass bottles. Ideal for collectors and brought a sense of nostalgia, connecting their audience to a piece of what could be their adolescence. I would argue this is a time when brands need to focus on the effects their product’s waste has on the world we live in, especially such a global brand like Coca-Cola. Industry Europe recorded a finding that ‘Coca-Cola remains the world’s largest plastic polluter in the world, responsible for over 2.9 million tonnes of plastic waste per year.’ 

The brand has a great rapport with its consumers. In 2014, after a Facebook petition to bring back its 2003 discontinued, citrus drink ‘Surge’, Coca-Cola reintroduced the drink for a limited time. Collectors went crazy and the brand got a huge amount of coverage and social media traction. 

In 2016 the hit music streaming app, Spotify reintroduced some new spokespeople for their brand. They reintroduced characters from ‘The Neverending Story’ a 1980s classic. For the audience demographic of Spotify users, 18-29-year-olds, this film would have been deeply ingrained in their childhood. But what made the campaign even better was the use of the original actors, Noah Hathaway as Atreyu and Alan Oppenheimer as the voice of Falkor. A 30-second ad produced by Wieden + Kennedy New York. Hathaway, who is now a heavily bearded 44-year-old man, rides on the back of Falkor. The pair appear just as the film left them over 20 years ago, as Atreyu exclaims, ‘I can’t believe people still listen to this song’, while the screen is covered with that 90’s grainy CG look. A very clever way of connecting with the past and associating it with the present in a quirky and effective way. 

For the release of iPhone 6s and introduction of the uses of their virtual assistant Siri. Apple featured the blue cuddly Muppet, Cookie Monster. The ad features him whipping up a batch of his favorite chocolate chip cookies. Most modern-day Apple users of today would have been brought up watching The Muppets. You’ll notice a lot of these current nostalgia ads, feature a lot of the 90s characters. This is both due to the demographic of the consumer but also that the 90s has become a trend that we can see both in pop culture but also in the fashion the ‘trendy’ fashionista are seen brandishing. 

TBWA/Media Arts Lab is the agency behind the ad, and they even released a series of “bloopers”.

After the success of the Sam Smith shoe, Adidas decided to try and bring back another classic, the Gazelles. Their goal was to keep the nostalgia of the original shoe, while also giving it space to appeal to the new audience. The result was an ad made in collaboration with Doug Abraham. Which saw images from the iconic 90s supermodel Kate Moss ad and readapted them. It worked as Gazelle sales shot up and garnered a cult following.

For their 150th anniversary in 2012, Bacardi released a series of print and television ads. The ad showcased a trip down memory lane, showcasing the parties that take place due to Bacardi. The ad was meant to show the authenticity of the company and its ability to stand the test of time. The agency that worked on the ad was WPP agency Johannes Leonardo. The goal, according to Leo Premutico the co-founder of the agency was “to depict a moment in time that lives in history” and offer “an eye to what’s next, an exciting future.” The campaign featured a TV advert, and also an OOH advertisement. 

The recent obsession with the 80s, 90s has brought the culture of then, into the now. We see it in our fashion and in our media. Netflix added the classic Bob Ross TV show to their lineup “The Joy of Painting”. In 2016 Bob Ross became a meme, a source of cult appreciation, and a trending personality across social media. Adobe, well known for their software, like their Creative Cloud, which is widely used by digital artists. Adobe noticed this recent nostalgia trend and altered their marketing strategy. They created a series of tutorial videos to promote their ‘Adobe Photoshop Sketch’ application for the iPad Pro. The joy of sketching campaign was effective because it connected to a nostalgic place for consumers with a friendly, recognizable face. It also took advantage of the trends of the time. The company even worked alongside Bob Ross Inc to make sure every detail in the “Joy of Sketching” series was accurate.

In total, I think at a time when nostalgia is so current and popular amongst people and seen although culture. It is a very effective way of reaching an audience. Pulling the audience back in time and pulling on their heartstrings. I am a firm believer in what happens in the past should stay in the past. But unlocking childhood memories and creating a deeper meaning and connection to an advertisement is clever and very effective in increasing sales. 

Stewart Russell-Moya

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