The Power of Nostalgia

“Everyone wants to live in tomorrow and vacation in yesterday.” ― Matt Spire

The holidays are here. The familiar smell of cinnamon, evergreen, and cloves waft through the air. There’s a familiar crackle coming from the flames of the fireplace. Anticipation fills the air. Feeling nostalgic, yet?

There’s something funny about nostalgia. We all experience it. We all yearn for it. We all try to recapture the feeling we get from it. But the truth of the matter is, it’s an unavoidable feeling that comes from our psyche. By definition, nostalgia is a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past. So it begs the question, why are we all chasing that elusive nostalgic feeling? That answer is simple: because nostalgia is always around us, even when we least expect it.

Nostalgia marketing isn’t a new concept, but it is an effective one. The driving factor behind feeling a sense of nostalgia can come from a variety of things. For some people it’s the smell of food that their mother used to make, or a favorite song from days gone by, or maybe it’s a photo from your childhood. Whatever it is, emotions play a big part in our ability to make quality decisions, and that’s exactly why marketers use nostalgia to their advantage. 

I want you to picture a scenario with me. Thanksgiving is near, so it’s time to purchase a turkey. You’re scrolling through your phone and an ad pops up of a family, gathered around the table, laughing, eating, enjoying each other’s company. That ad is for Turkey Brand A. As you’re looking through the grocery store ads you see another ad for Turkey Brand B, but this one just says ‘Ours is the best!’. Tell me. Which one are you more apt to choose? Are you going to choose the turkey brand that tells you they are the best, or are you going to choose the turkey brand that shows you they are the best? Majority of people are going to choose Turkey Brand A, because the simple fact of the matter is that nostalgia runs deep, especially around the holidays. So when your company is trying to figure out how to reach people during this busy time of year, always go the nostalgic route. 

Getting people to purchase your brand simply by putting a family around an overly stylized turkey isn’t always going to work, because if it did, then there would be no need for any other type of advertising. This is, however, easily one of the most effective ways to show your brands values and mix them with your consumers values. As Brian Greenberg, CEO and founder of Insurist states, the key to understanding nostalgia marketing is understanding what drives nostalgia in the first place. “They’re remembering something they loved from their past, and they’re longing for it again.” Knowing that your consumers are longing for days gone by, your company should be clambering at the opportunity to give them a taste of what they’re missing. Pull people in by enticing them with the things they want, or miss, the most. 

There are a variety of ways to utilize this style of marketing. For many realtors, nostalgia is the key component in selling a house, so they use fresh baked cookies, brownies, or even bread to get people to feel more comfortable in the home they are touring, which essentially leads to a sale. There are also brands such as Coca-Cola who did a massive re-release of their famous glass bottles. The classic, contour-shaped bottles were a staple in the past, but were eventually replaced by aluminum cans and plastic bottles. This isn’t the case anymore! The soft-drink brand has made it their mission to reintroduce the classic bottle to new generations for years to come. 

This style of marketing can also be seen in video campaigns. Two of the most notable are from Adobe and Apple. In 2016, Bob Ross’ Beauty is Everywhere once again became popular thanks to a resurgence on Netflix. What was once a hit show for our parents, is now being enjoyed by our generation and younger. This caused Adobe to think about how they could capitalize on that type of popularity, so they launched the Adobe Photoshop Sketch campaign. This campaign was a huge success due to the accuracy of the series. Adobe even worked with Bob Ross Inc. to ensure that all the details were correct, therefore giving a more authentic feel. 

Apple is another great example of successful use of nostalgia advertising. During the release of their iPhone 6, they chose a rather unusual celebrity to be their spokesperson. In their ad, Cookie Monster, yes that Cookie Monster, is seen baking a fresh batch of cookies while using Siri to set a timer on his phone. As unconventional as this was, something the world can bond over is our love for blue, fuzzy monsters who just love cookies. Apple recognized that, and they capitalized perfectly. 

As effective as nostalgia marketing is, it’s not foolproof. In fact, it comes with a variable you have to consider. What works for the Baby Boomers isn’t going to work for the Millennials. What works for Gen X certainly won’t work for Gen Z, so it takes some time to really think about what your message is, who you’re trying to reach, and what emotion you’re wanting to evoke. If you can tackle those things, then you can tackle nostalgia marketing head on. 

With the holiday season in full swing, it’s no wonder that we’re all feeling a little extra nostalgic. When this time of year rolls around, it’s easy to get lost in days gone by, that’s why so many companies choose nostalgic advertising this time of year. Whether their tugging at your heart strings with a sentimental story of coming home for the holidays, or it’s a mother serving soup to her soon-to-be-melted snowman of a son, or even if it’s a simple ad about coming together around the table, this type of advertising works. So trust us when we say, never underestimate the power of nostalgia. 

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