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Is Your Brand Nostalgizing?

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It's safe to say that all industries seem to be buying into nostalgia marketing, with Niantic’s record-breaking Pokémon GO, the success of Stranger Things and VH1’s 90s show Hindsight, and the new Nokia handset - Snake included.

When you consider recent economic shifts, the current political climate, and- while we’re at it, the actual climate, it’s no wonder we are looking to the past for comfort.

Nostalgia acts as a source of comfort and reassurance in times of instability. It not only reduces anxiety, but can make us feel connected to a shared past. According to psychologists, the majority of people experience nostalgia at least once a week, with nearly half experiencing it three or four times a week. ‘Nostalgizing’- often brought on as a reaction to negative events or feelings of loneliness- makes people feel better. This is especially successful when used in marketing. Provoking feelings of social connectedness, nostalgia makes people value money less, and therefore more willing to spend it.

Reporting higher levels of stress and feelings of isolation than any preceding generation - with stress affecting 82% of Millennials daily, compared to 79% of Gen Xers and 70% of Boomers - Millennials are particularly receptive to nostalgia campaigns.

Since Millennials, the first ‘digital natives’, have witnessed the full evolution of technology and social media, we are the prime targets for nostalgia marketing. The speed of technology change means that much of what we grew up thinking was cool or futuristic is now labelled vintage. So much change so fast has left us feeling chronologically homeless. Revisiting specific time periods allows us to claim our heritage: whether wearing chokers and denim jackets to channel the 90s, or posting ‘throwback’ pictures, Millennials are susceptible to nostalgia, even when it refers to events before our time.

Nostalgia marketing creates and refers to experiences, another reason for its success among Millennial audiences- who, according to recent reports, are using social media less often than Generation X, and prioritising real-world experiences over things. This has led to the rise of cheap local holidays, music festivals, Airbnb and immersive shows, and can help to explain why nostalgia is such a large influencer.

While proven to be a successful marketing tactic, nostalgia campaigns should be carried out carefully. We are nearing saturation point with nostalgia marketing, so those who use it should do so wisely. Some brands use nostalgia as an easy way to elicit an emotional response from their consumers, with little attempt at relevance or at conveying the brand’s purpose. These campaigns tend to fall flat, feel irrelevant or out of touch, or be seen to be ‘pandering’.

To make an impact, and be heard among the high volume of nostalgia marketing, companies should take inspiration from those who have used it well: Nickelodeon’s ‘The 90s are All That’ programming saw a 50% spike in ratings among Millennial viewers, Pepsi successfully combined their launch of ‘Pepsi Throwback’ with an Atari contest, influencing ASOS's recent gaming campaign with Oreo, and Pokémon GO took advantage of smartphones’ capacities for augmented reality, while encouraging people to explore their hometowns.

Successful campaigns like these tend to focus on simplicity, or are combined with modern technology, adding an interactive element to enhance the customer’s experience. Most crucially, for nostalgia marketing to be successful, it should refer to the past, while still mattering in the present.

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