Nostalgia Marketing: Engaging Memories for Brand Success

Throwback Thursday is still a thing for a reason!


Remembering something from your past, the sounds, colors and smells, is never not going to be enticing. Nostalgia calls you back to the simpler times that live in your memories and makes you long for the past. The scratch of an old record, the taste of a Ring Pop, the sound of dial-up internet, the Ducktales theme song. As an adult, one little hint of your past can send you sailing back to those idyllic days of youth, when your worries were few and the days of fun and play went on and on. 


The raw, emotional potency of nostalgia makes it one of the strongest marketing tools around.


Hell, nostalgia is why Buzzfeed got so popular while also quizzing you on just how goddamn old you are! (The 80’s weren’t that long ago, were they?)


Nostalgia marketing is powerful, irresistible, and an approach that the best of design agencies take full advantage of any chance they get. By triggering fond memories and emotions from the past, brands can create deeper connections with their target audience, leading to increased engagement, brand loyalty, and ultimately, business success. People are always in search of a momentary escape, especially as we exit the tail end of a global pandemic, and a simpler time and place is often just the mental journey they’re looking for.


So let’s talk about how nostalgia marketing can turn their past into your future…


Branding Nostalgia

There is a very good reason some of your favorite brands haven’t changed their logo in, like, ever, or are returning to one from thirty years ago. Harkening back to simpler times, and sparking the consumer’s memory, can make a familiar brand feel like home to them. Choosing to engage in the retro, rather than the new and trending, has an emotional effect that’s almost impossible to ignore. When a brand throws back, be it through fonts, colors or vintage aesthetics, they become a magnet for customers who desire the familiar.


And let’s talk for a moment about memory. The human mind is perhaps the greatest wonder of evolution, but it’s not yet perfect. Your mind may choose to discard the listless boredom of childhood, or any hardships you may have faced, and paint a majority of your young experiences as positive.


 This is called adaptive forgetting. It’s why we always think it’d be a good idea to get back with that one terrible ex. Our minds actively turn bad memories from childhood to good, and studies have shown that this happens because our past informs our present. A great deal of who we are, and how we define ourselves, comes from memory.


So, really, our faulty computer is looking out for us after all! Invented optimism for the win!


Okay, digression over…


Trending Nostalgia

Calling back memories of old marketing trends is a great way to spark the nostalgic pull. For an example of this, look no further than Kodak. With the rapid advent of digital photography, traditional film cameras barely even had time to stand at the door and wave. But, in recent years, those fun disposable cameras you remember, the ones where every photo was kind of a surprise (why is my head missing?), have made an even more surprising comeback. What’s more, the instant camera has also returned in all its fun, blurry glory. The old becomes new again, thanks to strategic market research and a partnership with Forever 21.


Audience Nostalgia

If you’re going to plan a marketing campaign that hinges on the memories of your audience, you must first understand them, especially their age range. Additionally, account for their geographic location to key in to their specific nostalgia. A potential audience in Dubai will likely not have the same shared childhood memories as one in Los Angeles. What are your intended audience’s interests and hobbies? Does your product focus on the tech sector? Sports fans? Librarians with thick reading glasses? Get a handle on your people and then point the nostalgia right at them!


Company Nostalgia

This one is specific to companies that have been around for a while. All others may skip (for now.)


Your company may have a wealth of history that people may remember fondly, whether you agree with them or not, so why not capitalize on it? Reminding customers that you’ve been around awhile can go a long way toward turning their fond memories into future partnerships. You don’t have to live in the past, but it doesn’t hurt to look toward it from time to time. Pairing nostalgia with innovation


Involved Nostalgia

Pose questions on social media and in advertising that engage your customer nostalgia. Ask pointed questions related to your business and encourage them to recall nostalgic memories and experience related to your brand or niche. By actively engaging with your customers through nostalgia, your success can be twofold: You’re embracing their fond memories, while also giving them a taste of your humanity, something that companies can forget to do.


Ultimately, the decision to pursue nostalgia marketing will come down to whether or not you want to evoke positive feelings from your customers through memory. If you’re coming up on an anniversary or are seeking to rebrand, then nostalgia might be just the key to success you’ve been waiting for. 


By tapping into sentimentality and leveraging shared memories and experiences, brands can create a sense of familiarity, trust, and engagement. 


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