February 23, 2023 Maggie Griffin

Feeling nostalgic? It might just be good marketing.

The golden age. The good old days. Yesteryear. 

Nostalgia marketing capitalizes on imagery, textures, fonts, phrases, songs, soundbites, etc. that instantly bring a flood of memories to the forefront of the mind and trigger an emotional response. This is not a new-fangled concept. It’s an evolution of the tried & true “brands you know and love” tactic. The novelty of nostalgia marketing is that it helps accomplish a company’s goals of bringing in new customers, growing share of wallet and increasing brand awareness by way of convincing the audience that they do know and that they do love this brand – even if they’ve never heard of them. 

A few examples: traditional networks and streaming services are rebooting shows and fighting over the rights to people’s “comfort shows”; Superbowl Ads feature well-known songs and cameos from beloved performers to increase the memorability of these short spots as they compete for attention in a crowded field; brands go after new audiences via collaborations that intend to bring an already loyal fan-base to a new product.

Let’s dive deeper into that last example, and how it has worked on me. 

As a child of the ’90s, Lisa Frank captured my heart with her whimsical, bright, imaginative, playful designs. Seeing her artwork now, I am taken straight back to 1997 – getting ready for a new school year, a blank journal full of possibilities, stickers ready to be applied to a pencil case full of freshly sharpened pencils. It’s as pure of a feeling as it gets. So imagine my delight when I find blenders, phone cases, apple watch bands, nail stickers, cookie dough and even Crocs sporting her iconic patterns. This type of nostalgia marketing finds me wanting things I didn’t even know I cared about simply because I love the collaboration and will always be loyal to Lisa Frank’s dalmatian sporting rainbow leopard spots.

Back to work; how does a leading B2B agency apply nostalgia marketing?

In December, a new client came to us in need of an updated approach to their marketing. During our strategy sessions with their leadership team, we discovered two important things: 1) they are celebrating their 70-year company anniversary in 2023 and 2) they need more team buy-in. As we continued our interviews and research, they showed us their original logo and the wheels started turning. 

Our team was struck by the strength of their original logo and knew a nostalgia marketing campaign could help them simultaneously engage new customers and strengthen current relationships, rally their current staff around a unified visual identity and brand story, and give them a way to stand out in a field where many competitors have the same look & feel. 

As we roll out this campaign throughout the course of 2023, we expect that long-standing customers will recognize the original look of the brand and remember their original encounters with the company. These memories might entice them to share their fondness of the brand via word-of-mouth recommendation and reevaluate their current contracts and think about how they could give them more business.

Used in recruiting efforts, the “retro visuals” will help to communicate this established company’s record within the industry. In an age of economic uncertainty, those looking for employment are sure to associate these visuals with stability and longevity. 

Internally, there is unique buy-in potential from the tenured members of the company who will have the most knowledge and familiarity with the older visuals. Knowledge drain is a challenge this company, like many others, is facing, and a nostalgia marketing campaign can position these team members to share their company stories and personal success stories in new ways. 

Tips to effectively implement nostalgia marketing?

In order to get the client on board, we had team discussions to work through the campaign’s details and came away with two major takeaways. 

1) A nostalgia marketing campaign must have a clear vision and purpose. We throw around a lot of ideas in our weekly meetings, and this wasn’t our first time going old school. The idea stuck for this client because there was a very clear vision of implementing a modernized version of their original logo in conjunction with a 70-year anniversary campaign. 

2) A nostalgia marketing campaign must verify that there is enough public knowledge for the references to evoke the intended emotional response and action. We asked, do the visual assets for this idea have enough equity? Enough public awareness? Enough institutional knowledge to effectively garner the support needed? All answers came back with a resounding “yes”.

We are excited to get rolling on this campaign for our client and we’ll be thinking of how we can implement this with other clients, keeping what we’ve learned in mind. 

How have you seen nostalgia marketing used? What brands have given you flashbacks to childhood?

About the Author

Maggie Griffin Maggie Griffin, graphic design extraordinaire. Though she earned her degree in Medical Humanities from Baylor University, her love of design led her to seek out opportunities where she could put her creative talents to work. She is an entirely self-taught graphic designer and lettering artist with a teachable spirit and undying desire to learn more. Armed with gratitude for the role itself, Maggie carries a great deal of care for her work while also never failing to rise to the challenge of creating something new.

The Creative Marketing Agency That Gets You Results

Four Columns Marketing Provides Goal-Based Marketing Strategies to Optimize Profits