Nostalgia marketing and why it works so well

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MIGGY CASTAÑEDA

One would perhaps notice a resurgence of some things that make people go, “Oh, wow, I haven’t seen that in a while.” Such things as Whammos and DuckTales and the Super Nintendo have been coming back and are still making their fans really, really excited about it.

Some websites have even dedicated posts about what items from their childhood still exist today, and how easy it would be to get a hold of them. There have been commercials that feature callbacks to past versions, or limited time releases of old versions of softdrink bottles.

The reason why these campaigns worked may be nostalgia marketing.

What is nostalgia marketing?


This form of marketing aims to evoke strong emotions of happiness, sentimentality, and a longing for a former place and time. It’s a form of emotional marketing that goes after people’s heartstrings and takes them back to the days when they were younger. A case in point: Apple is particularly adept at emotional marketing.

The belief is that this form of marketing works mostly on millennials, which is only partially true. Nostalgia marketing has seen use in a lot of different businesses, from entertainment to food, technology and retail.

The use of this strategy allows a brand to make consumers travel back in time and relive positive memories from their youths. These fond memories, and the feelings associated with them, leave consumers open to brand messaging.

Why it works so well

Nostalgia marketing resonates with a lot of people for the simple reason that when people care, they’re more inclined to act. Nostalgia is triggered by a number of sensory inputs. For example, the intro to the Spice Girls’ iconic Wannabe could make you want to dance (and you’re reminded that you still remember the lyrics), or certain smells, the photo of a past event that a friend shared.

Studies conducted at the Nanyang Business School on nostalgia marketing showed that subjects exposed to a phrase that evoked reminiscence while waiting to be seated perceived their waiting times to be less than the actual time. Applied to businesses, associating brand messaging with positive references from past decades is likely to stimulate consumers.

One clear-cut example of nostalgic and emotional marketing done right is Niantic’s Pokémon Go. Its launch trailer a year ago teased a giant battle between players of all ages and the Legendary PokemonMewtwo – fast forward to one year later and the release of the Raid system, which allowed players to take on four of the Legendary birds, Articuno, Zapdos, Moltres and Lugia.

In both cases, trailers were released to clearly showcase what was coming, with eager anticipation.

Final thoughts

What matters in a campaign shrouded by fond memories of the past is its authenticity, and at times its willingness to poke fun at itself through the lens of nostalgia.

Done right, nostalgia marketing is an effective tool that builds on an emotional response from consumers to promote a brand and increase sales. The emotional effect will compel people toward whatever is being sold to them, while also being timely, relevant and still authentic in the sometimes impersonal digital media age.

Miggy Castañeda writes about personal finance for MoneyMax.ph, a financial comparison website aiming to help Filipinos save money through diligent comparisons of financial products.

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