What is Nostalgia Marketing?

25 March 2022
by Archie Williamson
5 mins
What is Nostalgia Marketing?

Nostalgia marketing is among a new wave of “emotional” marketing techniques that in the face of cold, hard-sell advertising, instead looks to connect with consumers authentically by triggering specific emotions and evoking fond memories. The emotions triggered by nostalgia include comfort, security and happiness, which can be connected directly to a brand when the right marketing messages are delivered.

Nostalgia is not a new phenomenon and was first observed by the Ancient Greeks, which is where the name derives from. Its original spelling fused the words that mean “homecoming” and “pain” or “ache”. This suggests that the feeling it invokes – a yearning for a bygone era – was not always seen as  welcome, but in modern times this has changed.

Nostalgia, like a Pavlovian response, is a sort of conditioned learning and thought process based on experiences from childhood or in the past. When people talk about nostalgia, it is most often linked with positive feelings about a time, place or experience that makes them sentimental and that they want to return to in some way.

Why is nostalgia useful for marketing?

Marketers try to trigger an emotional response from consumers with their messages, so tapping into the feeling of nostalgia can be effective in making content more memorable and prompting people to take action. Nostalgia marketing is a form of emotional marketing, where brands use human reactions and emotions to create awareness, drive sales, build relationships and boost brand advocacy over time. It works, too.

A study by Motista titled “Leveraging the Value of Emotional Connection for Retailers” found that generating and nurturing positive emotions can drastically increase the lifetime value of customers and the likelihood that they will recommend a brand to others. Separate research by Washington State University also found that nostalgia-based ads were rated more favourably than non-nostalgic ones.

It is obviously a powerful tool and something that marketers should consider leveraging when the time is right. But what’s the best way to infuse campaigns with nostalgia to create the warm, fuzzy glow and positive feelings that are triggered by this unique emotion? Working with an international SEO agency with experience in crafting bespoke content is a good place to start, as is looking at the strategies of bigger, iconic brands.

How do big brands use nostalgia?

Coca-Cola’s festive campaigns are a classic example of nostalgia marketing. The fizzy-drinks maker always uses ads with Santa and other iconic Christmas imagery in them during November and December to trigger childhood memories and thoughts of happy times spent with family in the past. The songs used in these ads also create a sense of nostalgia.

Coca-Cola is tapping into its own branded history with Christmas ads but you don’t need a long history of advertising to trigger the right emotions. Walmart has used popular culture and a shared memory of older movies and TV shows such as Jurassic Park, Cinderella and Scooby Doo in its advertising to make people feel sentimental.

These two examples highlight how imagery and sound are two key triggers for nostalgia. For this reason, and due to the influence of social media, platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are often the best outlets for emotional marketing. While you can use written words to this end, it is more difficult to create the intended response in the way visual content can. But don’t let that stop you from crafting nostalgia-driven blogs, if you think that’s what will work best for your target audience.

How can my brand use nostalgia marketing?

Defining your audience is the best jumping-off point for nostalgic content. There is no point in creating something that will fail to trigger emotions from the people that you want to invest in your brand and buy your products and services. Conducting research to outline buyer personas and thinking about the triggers that will create an emotional response for those buyers will increase the chances of your nostalgia marketing being a success.

These triggers are often based around aesthetic products such as movies and music, as these are most likely to prompt a recollection of a particular time or place in the past. Several studies by renowned professors Robert Schindler and Morris Holbrook found that pop culture references from a person’s youth through to early adulthood are among the best nostalgic triggers. You could use common references in your content for either Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials or Gen Z, depending on the age of your target audience.

What’s the best way to use nostalgia in content?

Images and videos are great for nostalgic content but you can’t just publish them randomly without a wider objective or context and expect them to resonate with your audience. There are certain occasions that are ideal for emotional marketing, where you can link nostalgic triggers to a specific event to increase its power and make it more memorable, and just as important on social media, shareable. These occasions include:

  • Announcing a rebrand.
  • Celebrating an anniversary or milestone.
  • Launching a seasonal marketing campaign.
  • Reintroducing popular products.

Nostalgia can also be particularly memorable when you take part in trending conversations about topics that are currently popular. These could be linked to an annual sporting event, or a global holiday such as National Women’s Day, which takes place on 9 August in 2022. Using nostalgia in memes can also work. Microsoft’s Xbox account recently used the “how it started, how it’s going” meme to show images from its very first flight simulator game and its most recent release. This triggers nostalgia for older video game fans.

This type of content is eminently shareable, so don’t be shy in posting it across all of your active social media platforms. You can also tweak each post to make it a better fit for each site. That could mean making a video slightly shorter and eye-catching on TikTok, or using popular hashtags on Twitter. A few hashtags that have been linked to nostalgic content include #ThrowbackThursday and #FlashbackFriday.

Using nostalgic content to make people feel good and buy into a brand can be challenging for even the biggest businesses. If you need a helping hand with crafting high-quality images, videos and blogs that will be infused with SEO best practices so they can rank in Google Search too, contact us today to discuss our range of industry-leading services.

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