We’re all moved by familiar images, words, music, scents, or tastes that take us back in time. It could be the sound of an airplane in the sky, the scent of hot dogs in the summer, or a photo of a favorite toy. When the experience triggers a positive memory, it sparks nostalgia for that special moment or place in our lives; we remember it with fondness.
It’s this familiarity and fondness that many brands have been tuning into for the past year. So much so, we’re considering nostalgia marketing a digital trend for 2021. It’s why we saw blasts from the pasts all over Super Bowl commercials, like the cast of “That 70s Show” representing Cheetos, or Wayne and Garth for Uber Eats. Seeking comfort in the past during difficulties of the present has become a coping mechanism, and brands have been right there to deliver the cure.
Here are some examples of recent nostalgia marketing that may just get you time traveling, too.
Duncan Hines and Fruity Pebbles
Leave it to Duncan Hines to bring us back to childhood with a Fruity Pebbles cake kit. While the kit celebrates the cereal’s 50th anniversary, there’s no way it doesn’t tap into nostalgia for those who spent many mornings with a bowl of Fruity Pebbles and an episode of The Flintstones — or whatever the hit television show was at the time.
Mountain Dew and Bob Ross
Perhaps one of the more in-depth nostalgia marketing campaigns in recent times is that of Mountain Dew. The beverage brand created a YouTube episode hosted by the late Bob Ross (using a whole host of technology and body-doubling to do it), which put the brand front and center of a painting lesson that looked straight out of the 1980s. The campaign was promoted via TV spots, influencer marketing, and an online auction.
Gucci and Loewe
Luxury fashion brands are also finding success with nostalgia marketing. On social media, Gucci promotes its collection of Donald Duck apparel. It’s also released collections featuring Doraemon and Pokémon over the past year. Loewe launched a collaboration of ready-to-wear and accessories featuring Totoro in January. Both brands are leveraging nostalgia in hopes of creating emotional bonds with their audiences, which one study shows will result in customers who are willing to pay more for their products and less likely to churn.
The streaming service is no stranger to nostalgia programming, but in 2021 we’re seeing pure dedication to it. After the successes of Cobra Kai and The Queen’s Gambit last year, it’s clear audiences are not only seeking the content but also devouring it. As part of its digital marketing campaigns, Netflix is making the old new again with Firefly Lane — in which we fondly see regular flashbacks to the 1970s and 1980s — and The Last Blockbuster, a nostalgic documentary of the brand’s demise.
The outdoor recreation brand is iconic on its own. So, when it pushed its vintage gear on social media recently, it’s no surprise the nostalgia factor was in play. In fact, this post received some of the highest engagement, showing this kind of throwback content is exactly what the audience is connecting with the most.
Where Nostalgia Marketing is Headed for the Rest of 2021
The future has been wildly unpredictable, but with the digital trends we’ve seen in nostalgic marketing so far, it’s safe to say it will be center stage for the rest of the year. As opportunities for in-person events increase and people move around more frequently, you can expect to see what’s been working in digital transfer over into other areas such as print collateral, signage, out of home (OOH), and promotional products.
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