The Importance of Nostalgia in Marketing

April 9, 2015 by Sarah Netemeyer

We’ve all been slapped in the face with the power of nostalgia at the most random moments. It’s a warm and fuzzy feeling that takes us back to a really special chapter in our lives and causes a moment of refelection to blossom. Don’t tell me you didn’t bat an eyelash when you discovered you can still play the old school version of Oregon Trail or when you saw this Salt-N-Pepa GEICO commercial.

The feels are real.

So real in fact that brands are molding entire marketing campaigns around that good ol’ time traveling feeling. Nostalgia is an incredibly powerful emotional trigger and has been proven to boost overall positive feelings as well as hopefulness about the future.

According to a recent article by David Waterhouse, “Academic studies into nostalgia-based advertising have demonstrated that marketing which displays ‘wistfulness for the past’ produces a sense of social-connectedness, and by extension, invites consumers to part with money more easily. The Brand Power Index, which ranks brands according to social media buzz and online searches, has found correlations between nostalgia branding and boosts in online interest.”

Brands should use the benefits derived from tapping into its audience’s nostalgic emotions and expand upon the ‘good vibes’ with innovation and interactivity. Connecting your target to the past via a new product, process, or idea can open up totally new avenues and forge links between groups of people. Your brand scores big and ups its perceived value when helping to cultivate these deeper, more meaningful connections.

Waterhouse states, “Studies show that humans typically feel most nostalgic at times of sadness, suggesting a kind of natural defence mechanism for the blues. Faced with bleak times, we naturally reflect on better ones and the resulting afterglow acts as a pick-me-up. This process is vital to understanding the value of nostalgia in advertising, which, at its most effective, can produced a bite-sized version of that sensation.”

We know from experience that ads and content promoting positive feelings get shared more than “doom and gloom” material. As humans, we thirst for a sense of community through shared experiences and a feeling of camaraderie. Going retro might be the best way to propel your brand into a brighter future.

If you need me— I’ll be reflecting on this amid a pile of Beanie Babies from my 1990′s childhood.