Travel Back in Time: Succeed with Nostalgia Marketing

nostalgia marketing

Remember the good old days? You’re not alone. Humans connect to each other and make sense of the world by treading the familiar ground of the past. The past grounds us offers shared experiences and lacks the uncertainty of the present day. Everything in the past has already happened, so it’s fixed and concrete. No wonder brands that tap into our nostalgia are killing it with their ad campaigns. Here’s how to fire up the Delorean and get back to the future with nostalgia marketing.

What is Nostalgia Marketing?

Nostalgia marketing is a type of marketing strategy that taps into the power of the past. And the past is powerful. Just look at the reboots, revivals, and pop culture references that litter our daily lives. Nostalgia marketing takes the familiarity, comfort, and the carefree “things were better back then” sentiment of the past and grounds a product or service in it.

Those retro-looking Coke ads that channel hippie culture and music festivals? Nostalgia. That Mazda Miata ad that follows a guy’s cars throughout his life? A ton of (tear-jerking) nostalgia. The entire premise of the hit Netflix show Stranger Things, with its 80s setting and “kids on bikes” vibes? As nostalgic as it gets. And the people love it.

Why Nostalgia Marketing Works

Nostalgia marketing is a powerful strategy because it piggybacks on our existing positive sentiments about the past. It takes consumers back to their youth, creates brand affinity by suggesting shared experiences, and fosters warmth and connection. When you create an ad campaign that taps into products, experiences, and moments that we hold dear, your brand gets that bump of positivity by association.

Nostalgia marketing has always been a thing, but it’s risen to prominence over the past couple of years for a good reason. With COVID, lockdowns, social challenges, job insecurity, inflation, and more on our minds, we’re all looking for an escape into the safe and a familiar. No wonder we’ve all been mainlining childhood faves on Netflix.

Basically, the more uncertain the times, the bigger the lure of nostalgia. And given these present-day vibes? We’re all in on the retro bandwagon.

One thing: nostalgia marketing is powerful. But it shouldn’t be your entire brand strategy (unless your thing is selling retro T-shirts or vintage furniture).

Getting Nostalgic With Your Marketing

Ready to get old-school with it? Here’s how to channel those retro vibes into taking your brand forward.

  • Find what your audience is reminiscing about. Every generation gets nostalgic for different things. Boomers might resonate with flower power sentiments. Gen X might miss those synthpop and big hair days. And Gen Z is all about Wishbone and My Little Pony. Know your audience and find the cultural moments, references, products, and media that will resonate with them. Get it wrong, and your marketing might miss the mark.
  • Tap into the right aesthetic. From participating in #TBT hashtags to leveraging filters, colors, fonts, and even product placement, there are a ton of ways to ride on the coattails of nostalgia. Whether it’s the yellow and orange of the seventies, the chrome car fins of fifties Americana, or the boy band pop songs of the nineties, you can easily recreate the era you’re after. (Just be mindful of copyright infringement! Reference, don’t steal!)
  • Time your campaigns. Got an anniversary coming up? Celebrating a milestone or a product 2.0 launch? Want to highlight growth or an expansion? Have a great brand story for the ages? These are all great opportunities to create a “then vs. now” or “through the ages” timelapse campaign.
  • Bring back the things people want. If your audience is clamoring for a particular product or service that’s been off the market, bring it back – but with a new, contemporary spin. You’ll get kudos for relaunching a product they already know and love. When McDonald’s brought back its Orange Hi-C drink, it did so to a crowd of adoring fans.
  • …But know when to look forward. We all love to love the past, but remember, we’re living in the now. Be mindful that in some industries, continually looking back might have fans thinking that your company is stuck in the past. For some brands, this is great – but for others, this can mean brand dilution.

Let’s Travel Back in Time

The better a brand can make us feel, the more we’ll connect with it. Next time you’re launching an ad campaign, figure out what your audience is pining for, then deliver it to them. Give your customers the blast from the past that will make them feel connected, safe, and heard, and they’ll be more likely to listen – and act.

Need some help getting nostalgic? StellaPop’s creative team can help. From building a killer retro brand to creating an ad campaign for the ages, we’ve got what you need to help you leverage the past into your future success. Drop us a line on the old rotary phone today!



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