By Published On: June 24, 2015

Recycling. It’s not only good for the environment. It’s good for marketing, too.

From music, to movies, to fashion, our culture has always had a soft spot for the past. And now more than ever, the marketing industry seems to be taking notice.

But it’s more than the trend toward retro-cool. After all, the fashion industry has brought back styles from the past as long as there’s been a fashion industry. No, nostalgia marketing is something different. Always striving to create a deep, positive connection between their brand and consumers, marketers are realizing the emotional pull inherent in the sights, sounds, and tastes of the past.

Nostalgia is a powerful emotion. It instills warmth, comfort, and feel-good memories. It’s been known to increase mood, self-esteem, reduce stress, and create positive feelings about the future.

To that end, all kinds of old items are enjoying a resurgence. High-end restaurants are serving comfort food with a twist. Pro sports teams play to full stadiums on throwback uniform days. After years of declining watch sales, people are going gaga over the Apple watch. Vinyl records are popular again (hopefully 8-tracks are still far behind). So are old toys (especially among full-grown adults), classic kids’ books, retro candy, and revitalized brands like Surge, Crystal Pepsi, and Shinola. Basically, if it’s old, it’s cool again.

Why the trend toward nostalgia now?

A big factor is the digital age we live in. Technology can be impersonal. Our interactions with people and the world are often filtered through our screens. We feel alone, alienated, and disconnected much of the time. We long for connection more than ever.

Nostalgia is a great way to make that connection. By bringing back positive memories of the past, we’re instantly connected to a comfortable, simpler time—as well as to each other. Nostalgia allows us to share common experiences, and create new ones.

While people’s lives are busier and more stressed out than ever—juggling work, family, bills, and dozens of other things—taking a quick trip to Nostalgia Land is like a mini vacation. It provides comfort, fun, and a little respite from our everyday lives.

By placing their brand within this context, companies encourage consumers to associate their products and services with happy times and positive feelings. It’s an approach that’s highly effective across all generations, including the elusive Millennials.

So what does this mean for marketers?

While it may appear to be somewhat of a trend, nostalgia marketing is definitely no flash in the pan. It’s been used before and will keep being used, especially as consumers continue to feel more disconnected while searching for authentic experiences that bind them together.

An emotional connection with consumers is something every marketer aspires to achieve. As you consider your own marketing efforts, don’t overlook the power of nostalgia to create good feelings between you and your customers. Is there some way you can leverage the past, either through your own brand’s history, or by borrowing from popular culture, music, old movies, or something else?

As we all race faster toward the future these days, nostalgia marketing teaches us that sometimes the best way to succeed tomorrow is to keep an eye on the past.

About the Author: cat-tonic

Born of curiosity and enthusiasm, we’re a scrappy group of smart, passionate marketers who work hard and play hard. We show up every day and fight for our clients who are making the world a better place. We listen with curiosity, explore deeply, ask hard questions, and sometimes put forth ideas that might make you squirm. Because we believe the status quo is good for growing mold but not much else. The way we see it, change is the way forward and the magic happens when curiosity, math, science, instinct, and talent intersect.
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