Nostalgia Marketing: The Rise of Throwbacks

Gameboy and games driving nostalgia

Are Throwbacks Making a Comeback?

Have you ever looked at a photo that was taken when you were a child? You, or anyone you know in it, might not even be the focus, but knowing the photo was taken at a point when you were younger can evoke this rush of contextual memories – leaving you in a state of bliss for that moment in time. Memories can have a strong psychological and emotional impact. Now, imagine what can happen when you incorporate that warm, fuzzy feeling of nostalgia within the context of marketing?

We’re seeing this tactic used by many brands lately, and it has had some successful outcomes. For example, Burger King ditched their logo in January 2021 and reverted to an older logo they used in the 90s. We’ve seen an increase in these nostalgic references in the digital realm of social media as many people would rather escape back to the whimsical memories of their childhood. Incorporating nostalgia in marketing campaigns isn’t just a strategy for selling, it’s also a psychological phenomenon that taps into your audience and makes them experience those feelings of bliss. You can think of this tactic as a sort of “refresher” button for your audience, which can transform anything new into something more familiar.

Is Nostalgia Marketing right for my brand?

In order to successfully use nostalgia in your marketing strategy, you first need to understand what resonates with your audience. What may be nostalgic to one person can make another person feel lost. This can be linked to generational differences in age, interests, and historical events. At first glance, using nostalgia marketing might narrow your target audience, but at best, it can get your brand noticed by new audiences. Using social listening tactics can help you better understand which trends resonate with your audience.

If you grew up with Motorola’s Razr flip phone, then you know about all the hype surrounding it during the early to mid-2000s. Motorola, a cellular device company, who has since been overshadowed by bigger brands such as Apple and Android, used the concept of nostalgia as a marketing tactic when they surprised everyone in September 2020 by releasing a cell phone that mirrored the same Razr flip phone structure. This 2020 release included current and necessary features like a touch screen that everyone has come to be familiar with.

How can I use Nostalgia Marketing?

First, you could reintroduce products back by popular demand through social listening. If the amount of people who express that they miss a particular product or service is large enough, a brand can reconsider bringing back that discontinued product or service with tweaks to include new and improved features for the current time. Tapping into that nostalgic feeling makes people happy, and when people are in a positive mood, they will be more receptive to your message, more likely to remember your message, and interested in sharing it with others. This ultimately leads to brand awareness

A second example of showcasing nostalgia through your brand is through digital media. By using the hashtag, #TBT (throwback Thursday), on your social media platforms, you can share old photos, videos, texts of memories, or audio recordings with a purpose. Some popularly used hashtags such as #MondayMemories, #TakeMeBackTuesday, #WaybackWednesday, and #FlashbackFriday, all achieve the same purpose and are commonly used on Instagram and Twitter. #Latergram and #OnThisDay are other popular hashtags that don’t need to fall on a specific day. By using these hashtags on your social media platforms, it can help build engagement, tell stories, improve brand awareness, and have fun with your audience.  

When using nostalgia marketing, it’s important to know the exact outcome you are trying to achieve from your audience. If you are trying to mimic a particular era, it’s crucial to pay attention to all of the details. This includes any images, sounds, colors, fonts, or fashion choices being used. For instance, using a West Banjo font from the 60s over an 80s-inspired neon geometric backdrop lacks consistency and causes confusion.

If your brand’s budget is large enough, incorporating a popularly known and/or famous figure related to that specific time can help a marketing campaign flourish. An example of this was shown when Apple released a commercial that advertised the new iPhone 6s in 2016 by showcasing Cookie Monster, a popular childhood character.

To effectively and successfully use the concept of nostalgia in your marketing strategies, be sure to understand your audience, what motivates them, and the era they were raised, all while still including where their interests lie. Remember, creating a sense of nostalgia around your brand, products, or services means immersing your audience in the past while delivering on expectations from the now. 

Author Details

Brianna P.

Senior at SUNY New Paltz. Former Junior Marketing Associate at Tipsy Social.