Throwback Thursday: A Case for Nostalgia Marketing
Millennials are suckers for nostalgia. We love it so much that we created the #ThrowbackThursday hashtag so that once a week, every week, we have an excuse to reminisce about the “good old days.” While there are no hard facts or findings to explain why this particular generation is prone to nostalgia, it very well could be because our formative years were sandwiched in between pre- and post-internet — we’re old enough to remember life before and young enough to understand how to use it. Millennials witnessed the rise of the internet and watched as it changed and shaped the future of our culture and our world forever. It’s difficult to grasp the full effect, but if ask yourself how long it would take you to realize your internet was down, it’ll give you a small taste.
Maybe that’s why life pre-internet makes us feel a little mushy — we remember our parents storing fold-out paper maps in their cars and then still having to stop at gas stations every 20 miles to ask for directions. Looking back, those days just seem so far away. After paper maps, we had bulky GPS’s suctioned to our dash that constantly needed to be updated and that you always had to make sure to store in the glove compartment before leaving the car because those puppies were getting swiped left and right. Now that everyone has a smart phone and most new car models have their own GPS systems, those are even ancient.
If you work in any industry that creates or markets a product to consumers, you are 100% aware of the millennial obsession with nostalgia and you’re ALL over it. You’re competing with everyone else for a bigger ‘”AWW” or ‘”OMG, I USED TO LOVE THAT!” Whether it’s reintroducing old products, revisiting old campaigns, or teaming up for nostalgia-induced brand collaborations, it seems like every day there’s a new something tugging at the proverbial millennial heartstring.
Nokia’s classic 3310 phone and Motorola’s razor flip phone, both of which have resurfaced, were what many millennials had as their first cell phones. Coincidence? I think not. Nickelodeon has had a multitude of partnerships across fashion, beauty, and home that have featured the most popular shows of that era including Rugrats, Hey Arnold, Doug, and Ren & Stimpy. They’ve resurfaced those same shows to air on Hulu and Netflix, targeting millennials with small children and hoping they’ll pass the baton. Iconic sporting goods brands like Fila and Champion, who not long ago were fading into the background, have come back with a vengeance by simply un-archiving late 90’s/early 00’s styles, and many others have followed their lead. Take Adidas’ Superstar sneaker for example — in a lot of ways, that was the catalyst for this tidal wave. Soon, 90’s fashion was trending again, making appearances on the runway and in stores like Urban Outfitters.
There’s even been discussion among industry insiders that millennials go beyond nostalgic, saying they actually just don’t want to grow up. Products they’d used as kids like beaded bags and jelly shoes started resurfacing. marketed to adults. Mattel took the once beloved children’s toy, Polly Pocket, out of retirement and teamed up with London-based designer Mimi Wade for a jewelry collection that sold out within a week. LYFT partnered with Capri Sun, which millennials would easily see 100 times a day in the cafeteria, to release a promo code that when inputted into the app, would turn all cars into Capri Sun pouches on the users’ screens.
Marketing to millennials using nostalgia at first seemed like a passing trend, but it looks like it’s here to stay. Is that a good or bad? In article for REWIRE, Bettina Zengel (a research fellow of psychology at the University of Southampton) said that, “In general, nostalgia is a psychological resource. When someone feels nostalgic, they think about the past, but they also feel more optimistic and inspired. Nostalgia is therefore anchored in the past but with a positive trajectory into the future.” However, within that same article, a quote from Hal McDonald, Professor of Literature and Linguistics at Mars Hill University, states that “restorative nostalgia, involving a desire to ‘rebuild the lost home,’ views the past with an eye toward recreating it — a desire to relive those special moments is what spurs us to pull out our phone at 1 a.m. and call up an old boyfriend or girlfriend because we just heard ‘our song’ on the radio.” So maybe, it’s both. Maybe there’s a healthy balance for nostalgia marketing, because at this rate, we’re bound to run out of everything symbolically 90’s before 2025!
Posted by Abby