You may have noticed a boom in childhood pictures on social media. During the COVID-19 pandemic, people became more nostalgic than ever. In marketing terms, there’s always been a place for nostalgia. Remembering the past makes us feel good during hard times. Even teenagers and people in their twenties feel nostalgia for books, films, food, and products that defined their childhoods.
Nostalgia serves a useful purpose, according to The New York Times, “Nostalgia has been shown to counteract loneliness, boredom, and anxiety. It makes people more generous to strangers and more tolerant of outsiders. Couples feel closer and look happier when they’re sharing nostalgic memories.”
Most people feel nostalgic at least once a week, and consequently, marketers of every strand have sought to use this to their advantage. Even in our ‘modern’ popular culture, we’re being transported back into the past for a nostalgia trip.
In this blog, we’ll take a look at ways in which marketers, particularly eCommerce sites can use nostalgia to their advantage when it comes to promoting their products and services.
Use retro color schemes, fonts, and graphics in marketing visuals
In many respects, the aesthetics of your marketing will serve a more important purpose than the words you write, especially when it comes to nostalgia. Images, colors, and graphics are more likely to trigger those feelings of nostalgia.
This might be the easiest thing you can do in terms of eliciting those feelings, so just change up your visuals with new colors and old school graphics. Any good graphic designer will be able to draw on any retro inspiration when creating your marketing materials – 80’s ‘8-bit’ video game graphics have seen a resurgence in many places, but things like tacky 90’s trainers and TV shows can serve that nostalgia buzz.
For your imagery to be successful, you’ll want to combine the style of the area you want to evoke and give it a fresh, modern twist. Think about the toys, films, books, and TV shows that you remember from your childhood – something about their design must have drawn you to them, so consider how their use of color, their fonts, or their shapes could be used to promote your organization.
A few themes to think about when it comes to design would be the use of monochrome, halftone patterns, the use of neon colors, and signage, and you can’t go wrong with minimalist designs either. Tools like Canva, Pixlr, Crello, Unsplash, Pexels, and Pixabay all have the ability to help you find some inspiration.
Create videos inspired by old ads or tv shows
Video is very popular, especially on social media, so if you have a budget, definitely create some nostalgia-inducing videos. This could be recreating an old advert from your childhood or using a now outdated piece of technology to remind your audience just how much your world has changed.
So many recent viral videos have played on nostalgia to generate that all-important social media engagement. A few companies have done this to great effect. Old Navy, for example, have had plenty of modern stars in their advertising, but in 2012, they promoted their range of skinny jeans in an advert that involved 90’s heartthrobs The Backstreet Boys appearing out of a giant boombox, so a double nostalgia hit there. Even high street bank Halifax had Top Cat star in their adverts.
Nostalgia for video games has become increasingly more common, with Pepsi creating a viral video based around popular ‘70s video game The Oregon Trail and turbo-boosted the nostalgia with a smorgasbord of ‘90s references like bad haircuts and Tamagotchis. This viral nostalgia trend isn’t just limited to companies selling products directly to us either. The Graham Norton Show’s most-watched viral clip was the reunification of the stars of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air for a very ‘90s Will Smith rap.
Think about how your business can use the latest innovations in the rapidly-evolving world of online videos to your advantage.
Go #ThrowbackThursday and #FlashbackFriday crazy on social media
#ThrowbackThursday or #TBT is always a sure-fire way to drive social media engagement, but these can be done in a different way – reimagine some of your products or services as if they are indeed from a throwback photo or video.
TD Canada has used the Throwback Thursday hashtag to link back to the history of their company and demonstrate how far they’ve come, posting a picture of their old credit card and comparing it to the new one to show how far did they come. Similarly, the hashtag is something Starbucks Coffee use regularly to evoke feelings of the ‘good old days’, such as this old-timey photo of their first coffee shop opening in Seattle. So think back to the early days of your organization and find out what’s changed, as people love comparing ‘then and now’.
Bring back the print
What is more retro and old school than magazines and newspapers? Create your own, with a retro style in mind, and send it out with every order you make. Consider trawling Instagram, Etsy, and Pinterest for inspiration when it comes to recreating the classic styles of old papers and magazines.
ASOS, one of the biggest online fashion stores, create and sell ASOS magazine for a very acceptable price. In it, they are including fashion editorials with products from their shop as well as interviews with interesting people.
While viral videos are great ways of getting your message shared across the world, old media such as newspapers are more authentically traditional, so don’t underestimate the power of putting your marketing right in someone’s hands. The style of old-fashioned newspaper adverts could draw the eye a lot more than modern, glossy print adverts.
The Jeep ‘See what you want to see’ campaign worked particularly well in print, as customers could see the advert in a different way by turning the page upside down, so you don’t need to feel constrained by the limitations of this particular format.
Be nostalgic yourself
Don’t just market nostalgia, be nostalgic too. Create a campaign with some stories from your brand’s beginnings, how everything looked back then – perhaps your first products or your first website. It doesn’t have to be ancient history – something from 5 years ago can induce nostalgia as well.
This Internet Explorer advert is a ‘90s nostalgia overload and was a popular campaign because not only was it showing you things to be nostalgic about – toys, games, haircuts, fashion – it connected this nostalgia to the company’s own history. “You grew up, so did we” was a particularly powerful note to end on, and it deepens that emotional connection to the past. Similarly, a recent Gillette advert looked back to its past and made a powerful comment about how perceptions of masculinity have changed over the years.
Think about how many brands talk about their history in their marketing, telling us how long they’ve been around and how long they’ll be around in the future. That definitely works in establishing brand credibility, but don’t just tell us, show us as well.
Nostalgia is a great tool for marketing as it is designed to elicit a positive, strong, emotional reaction in people. When done effectively, it can cause a campaign to take off and make an impact possibly even well beyond your target audience.
Whether your campaign is on social media, in print, email, or whatever you choose, perhaps the most important thing to get right is the authenticity. If people don’t remember what you’re trying to refer to, your campaign will be over before it’s even begun. This is why design is so important. Use every tool at your disposal to best recreate that sense of history and identity. Even football shirts nowadays are alluding to past designs and the history of their clubs to help foster that connection with their fans.
Think about what you’re trying to say when you use nostalgia marketing, and try not to just use nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake. Every ‘80’s kid will remember the Rubik’s Cube, but why use it if your business’s history, products, or ethos can’t be associated with the popular toy?
Nostalgia works. We love harking back to the good times of yesteryear and it can be tremendously beneficial to have your product associated with those times. Did you know that Werther’s Originals were only really mass-marketed in the late 90s? Yet they played on nostalgia expertly in the marketing, so many people now think of the sweets as something that has been around for generations.
Nostalgia marketing can be tough to get right and very easy to get wrong, but you’ll notice some incredible results if done correctly. As brands, we want to positively associate ourselves with our customers’ fondness for their pasts, which is why organizations of every kind – from small businesses to Coca-Cola, use nostalgia when trying to promote themselves.
Anita Sambol is a content strategist and graphic designer at Point Visible, a marketing agency providing custom blogger outreach services. She has years of experience in designing graphics for web and running social media and content marketing campaigns. She loves cooking and football.