The Power of Nostalgia

In recent months, brands from all industries have been maximising nostalgia marketing strategies – driving energy into their marketing campaigns by reinforcing positive cultural memories from previous decades. This type of marketing has been particularly fruitful for brands who have been able to seamlessly merge the old with the new, in a bid to build brand loyalty and trust.

Last summer Nintendo made a nostalgia-filled comeback, re-introducing one of its most iconic properties through the game ‘Pokemon Go’, where players of the original game were finally able to fulfil their lifelong desire of catching Pokemon in the ‘real world’. The virality of this app offers great insight into the almost oxymoronic strength of coupling a trip down Nostalgia Lane with modern-day relevance.

Nostalgia marketing works especially well when targeting a millennial audience – a generation that is far more in touch with the styles and tastes of previous generations than anybody before. Ongoing exposure to an economic recession and a difficult job market has perhaps bestowed on millennials a greater yearning for the ‘good old days’ – even the days they weren’t around for.

Combine this with digital fluency and a willingness to share their whole lives (and pasts) online. When millennials see something that reminds them of yester-year, they feel inclined to show it to a friend and ask them if they remember it too. This kind of shareability proves invaluable in a digital age where social media sharing plays such a pivotal role in driving business

The power of nostalgia also spills over into the political realm, with the FT’s Simon Kuper suggesting that the easiest way to win votes these days is through selling the past – an old-age political strategy that dates back to Ancient Greece when radicals routinely promised a return to the golden age.

Trump and Brexit are recent examples of huge political success driven by ‘nostalgic nationalism’ – two campaigns that pledged to build a future inspired by past glories. With no revolution, civil war, dictatorship or invasion since 1660, Brits have a relatively bright outlook on their past. It is therefore no wonder that the Brexit campaign worked so well to persuade 52% of the UK population to vote in favour of leaving the EU.

Nostalgia – whether used in marketing or politics – is a strategy that has powerful resonance for important audiences, forging meaningful connections between past and present. However, reinvention is key – the story has to be relevant to the needs of audiences both old and new. If able to bring back the warm glow of the past in a contemporary way, nostalgia is arguably one of the strongest tools a brand or politician can use.