As the saying goes, “history always repeats itself,” so I’m not sure why I was surprised to see the outfits I rocked back in 1995 hitting fashion runways this past spring. Part of me secretly loved that these trends were coming back, but the thought of wearing jelly shoes and overalls again gives me nightmares.

And it’s not just fashion that is coming back around. I was at a party last weekend and my friend started taking pictures with a Polaroid camera. When I asked her where she found this artifact, she informed me that this camera was, in fact, brand new. This got me thinking, why are consumers – particularly millennials – drawn to “vintage” things?

Nostalgia for Childhood

Whether or not we want to accept it, we millennials are grown-ups now. And because of this, vintage things make us nostalgic for our not-so-distant childhoods when everything was simple. Brands are tapping into this feeling – a strategy called “nostalgia marketing” – and it works incredibly well with millennials.

Hubspot says nostalgia marketing is “the advertising equivalent of comfort food” and here’s why. In the 20th century, psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott discovered that an infant’s first emotional action is “social smiling,” a smile in response to the parent’s smile. This emotional response is likely the main driver for social sharing and word-of-mouth marketing.

When we see something that makes us happy, we feel a connection to the brand and want to share it with others. So by giving consumers all the feels about their childhoods, brands are effectively encouraging social sharing.

For example, take the Full House revival called Fuller House.

Is it a high-quality program? Definitely not.

But starring most of the original cast, it has been a huge hit and Netflix will release the second half of its third season this month. A quick social media search of #FullerHouse shows that people are absolutely watching this show and telling their friends about it, too.

Tips for Nostalgia Marketing

If nostalgia marketing seems like a strategy that could work for your brand, here are some tips you should follow.

Have a strong understanding of your target audience and what they value.

Ideally, your team should include people who grew up in that generation because they are the target audience and can tell you what will work and what won’t.

Consider also conducting focus groups before launching the campaign to ensure the message resonates. You don’t want to end up on the bad side of an entire generation just because you assumed you knew what the “kids these days” were doing.

Some people/brands have learned that the hard way.

Make it new and improved.

There should be a modern take or spin on the original.

For example, Nokia brought back its old-school, circa-2000 cell phones earlier this year and while they didn’t really offer anything new, the style and user experience are modern and fresh.

And yes, it comes with the game Snake (AKA the best game ever).

The little details matter.

According to an article in SocialMediaToday,

“It’s okay to mix modern elements into your nostalgic campaign – just make sure you pay close attention to the details that matter so consumers will create the correct memory in their minds.

The title sequence of Stranger Things captivated us because it was captured in the same fashion as titles from the 80s used to be captured. The font choice is also distinctly 80s and shows how much attention was paid to making the show feel authentic.”

Go where your target audience is.

As with any campaign, it’s important to choose the right channels for reaching your target audience. With more and more millennials going cordless (i.e., not paying for cable TV), the best way to reach them is typically via social media and streaming networks.

But if Baby Boomers are your target, for example, your strategy will be completely different.

Make it shareable.

This goes back to the psychology of social sharing and word-of-mouth marketing. If your campaign message is compelling, people will want to share it with their friends, so make it easy for them by having a strong digital presence that is optimized for mobile.

Nostalgia marketing has worked extremely well for some brands, but some experts suggest millennials are “growing weary of looking back, and instead yearn to forge a path forward.”

Have you tried nostalgia marketing? Let us know on social media how it performed.

Melanie Voisey

Author Melanie Voisey

Melanie is an Account Executive at InQuest Marketing. She works with clients to bring their big ideas to life and solve their challenges. Her favorite thing about the agency is the fact that it is full-service and she gets to learn about many different facets of marketing. Her hobbies include yoga and her dog, and if she could have any superpower it would be bilocation (the ability to be two places at once).

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