4 Ways Nostalgia Marketing Drives Emotional Connections

You know that feeling when you see something, smell something, hear something, that provokes a specific memory in your mind? And you yearn to go back to that time so you can experience it all over again? This is called nostalgia. And you’re probably familiar with the concept.

So what is “Nostalgia Marketing”? It involves associating your company with something that your consumers already love. The goal of nostalgia in marketing is to align marketing campaigns with things that provoke emotional responses. As we’ve explored previously, tapping into emotions is a powerful tool for experiential marketers. To put it simply, nostalgia marketing is using old, familiar concepts that are associated with happy memories to build trust and fond emotions about your brand.

Nostalgia is so powerful that it decreases feelings of sadness and loneliness, and even has been shown to help people feel warmer on cold days!* Research shows that nostalgia gives our lives a sense of meaning as we grow older.** But why is nostalgia so powerful as a marketing strategy?

Research from the Journal of Consumer Marketing found that invoking nostalgia led people to be more generous and more willing to spend money. Part of why nostalgia is so effective is that when people look back on the past, they tend to focus on the good memories — as if they were wearing rose-tinted glasses! Nostalgia also evokes feelings of security, comfort, and trust, leading consumers to have more confidence in your brand. Finally, nostalgia encourages social connectedness. And experiential marketing events are the perfect vehicle for tapping into that social connection!

Although many companies have effectively integrated nostalgia into their experiential marketing campaigns, brands should plan carefully before adopting nostalgia as a marketing strategy. The following are some important do’s and don’ts to consider.

4 ways to effectively harness the power of nostalgia

  1. Share Your Story: Tap into your brand’s own history. This could include bringing back a popular product or service, or reviving an old successful marketing campaign. Celebrating an anniversary can signify that your business is trustworthy and dependable. Even newer brands can remind their customers of good experiences they’ve had with the brand on previous occasions.  New Coke is a good recent example.
  2. Consider Timing: Although nostalgia can be a powerful tool any time of year, there are certain occasions where it may be especially effective. There are times of year that already have consumers in a nostalgic mood – think Christmas, 4th of July, back to school season, etc. Take advantage of your audience already craving that nostalgia fix!
  3. Use the Power of the Senses: One advantage that experiential has over other campaign types is the opportunity to invoke nostalgia through the senses. An easy way to invoke nostalgia is through incorporating music. Your experience could also include foods or scents that evoke nostalgia, or even retro toys or video games consumers can touch!
  4. Add Something New: Effective nostalgia marketing balances the old with the new. Brands that fail to add something new could be seen as irrelevant or out of touch. Although nostalgia is the goal, make sure parts of your event are made for the modern world — especially social media! Create and use event hashtags so that your audience can share their joy about your event.

4 Pitfalls to avoid when using nostalgia

  1. Inconsistency: Any experiential marketing campaign needs to make sense and have a good fit with your company’s existing story. You may want to be cautious about counteracting other parts of your brand’s image, such as innovation. If the nostalgic message does not align with your brand’s existing tone and personality, you will fail to connect with your audience. Campaigns that aren’t consistent with your brand’s image will lead to…
  2. Lack of Authenticity: Savvy consumers can easily see through inauthentic marketing tactics. If your nostalgic campaign doesn’t align with your brand’s existing image, it will likely appear desperate and contrived. You don’t want to come across as a company that will tap into any trend just to make a profit!
  3. Not Considering Your Demographic: While Millennials are the hot topic in marketing these days, if your brand caters more towards Gen X or Baby Boomers, you want your nostalgic campaign to match that demographic. Although some time periods, music, or games may appeal across generations, marketing campaigns tailored to a specific generational segment can be more successful than those intended to have a universal appeal. Which strategy you use – universal nostalgia or a targeted generation – will depend on what audience you are trying to attract.
  4. Assuming Your Company Can’t Benefit from Nostalgia: An easy mistake would be to assume that a brand has to have an established presence and history to tap into. This is easy to assume, given that some popular marketing campaigns involve reviving older successful campaigns, advertisements, and products. However, newer brands can benefit from this approach as well! For example, in 2016 Spotify paid tribute to the 80s film The NeverEnding Story with a video using the movie’s soundtrack and the original actors reprising their roles for the ad.

Here’s an example of how we tapped into nostalgia marketing. Pro Motion partnered with Fathom Communications to secure regional and national buzz and PR coverage for Hasbro’s Tonka Mighty Dump Truck toy. Touring the country by driving a giant toy truck, we tapped into nostalgia by reminding parents of their happy memories playing with Tonka toys. The campaign was also timed with Tonka’s 60th Birthday Celebration, further adding to the sense of nostalgia.

Ready to harness the power of nostalgia in your next experiential marketing campaign? Pro Motion is ready to partner with you! Call us today at 636.449.3162