The Value Of Nostalgia In Brand Marketing

Never underestimate the power of nostalgia. 

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Discover why the past can be an incredibly valuable marketing tool and how nostalgia marketing certainly can yield serious dividends...
Old school.

They say you should leave the past where it belongs… in the past. But is this true for brands and their copywriters.

Here at Rule of Three, we think not. In fact, we think the exact opposite. The past can actually be an incredibly valuable marketing tool and if you’re yet to realise it, well, you’re a step behind some of the big name brands out there.

Never underestimate the power of nostalgiaNostalgia marketing certainly isn’t a new concept and it’s one that can yield serious dividends so would be worth looking into, even if you don’t end up pursuing it. It’s one of the most effective ways of connecting with people, reminding them of their childhood, sparking memories left, right and centre.

Can you think of a better way to ensure that people spend some serious cash?

But it’s not just about spending money – it’s also about creating a really positive association with your company and nostalgia is one of the quickest ways of going about this.

Here’s to Mr Sinatra

In 2013, NBC Universal Integrated Media spotted that brands connecting with the past really strongly resonated with people. 

Jack Daniels was a prime example of this – it launched a special edition of its drink to celebrate Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday and to mark the singer’s 50-year relationship with the company. 

In December 2012, Las Vegas airport came alive with interactive stations for viewing, tasting and listening to Ol’ Blue Eyes, which was extended to 200 other airports in the first quarter. The result? Jack Daniels climbed 27 per cent in the NBCUniversal Brand Power Index.

From one Frank to another…

Also in 2012, Urban Outfitters played the nostalgia game, reintroducing iconic Lisa Frank products that were hugely popular among girls in the 90s. They sold limited edition Lisa Frank stickers, stationery and folders, as well as launching a Lisa Frank contest  with the hashtag #UOxLisaFrank and coming up with a Lisa Frank-inspired doodle. 

Addidas Girl - remixed

Adidas Girl

More recently, Adidas buddied up with none other than Kate Moss – original poster girl for the brand – to relaunch its 90s style Gazelle shoe. Artist Doug Abraham was hired to devise an inspired ad campaign using splices from the supermodel’s original photo shoot from 1993. 

“Like the Gazelle, Kate Moss is just as relevant in 2016 as she was back in the 1990s, which is why the image works so well. Kate told me earlier this year that when it comes to trainers she has always been an ‘Adidas girl’, so there was an affinity and an existing synergy there,” Adidas brand consultant and curator Gary Aspen told Business Of Fashion back in January.

Past meets the present

These days, Millennials have all the spending power – and the will to spend. They’re also at that age where they’re starting to get a bit nostalgic for days gone by, a combination brands would be foolish to ignore. 

We’re certain that Nintendo’s miniature NES, which comes with 30 built-in games, will prove hugely successful thanks to this demographic. 

Who doesn’t want to play retro versions of Super Mario Bros, after all? 

What’s interesting to note about this latest nostalgic release is that the console can be connected to a TV using an HDMI cable and the new controller can connect to a Wii Remote so it can be used to play games on the Wii as well – the perfect marriage between nostalgia and new technology. The past and the present. 

And it’s not just products that have come over all nostalgic in the last few weeks and months.  Have you caught that Halifax mortgage advert featuring one of the most well-known and beloved cartoon characters in the UK? 

The ad shows the one and only Top Cat walking into a Halifax branch and trying to con his way into taking out a mortgage...

We applaud the use of nostalgia marketing for this ad campaign – although the ad itself may have been a bit ill advised. Countless people took to Twitter to question the use of Top Cat to market mortgages ... after all, he is a con artist and he does live in a bin.

Get with the buzz

So what’s the long and short of all this? 

Well, since so many big name brands are turning to nostalgia marketing in their droves, you’d probably be wise to do the same. You can play with certain ideas within your content strategy to incite certain emotional responses. 

Write your content in a fun way that will give your social sharing and engagement a boost, while forging a strong emotional connection with people. 

Look to the likes of BuzzFeed for inspiration – their writers are always posting content that gets a ridiculous number of likes and shares. Posts like 29 Forgotten Trends All Late-90s Girls Were Slightly Obsessed With are sure to be a hit. 

Still aren’t convinced? 

BuzzFeed understands the importance of nostalgia in its content so very much that it even has its own sub-domain online called BuzzFeed RewindHerein, you’ll find endless reams of content covering the likes of Rugrats, The Golden Girls, Robot Wars, Friends, Dawson’s Creek… if you love looking through the past with rose-tinted spectacles, this is definitely the site for you. 

The key to getting nostalgia marketing right is to be authentic. To be genuine. People will immediately be able to tell if you’re just doing it to win customers. You’ve actually got to mean it. 

There’s so much information out there that’s constantly bombarding everyone. No wonder so many of us are looking to the past increasingly as a way to connect. 

Childhood is a magical time – who doesn’t want to go back there, even just for one day? 

With this in mind, it’s hardly surprising that smaller niche brands are doing so well right now. They’re all about the story. They’re all about passion. And customers can tell this straight away – so they’re more likely to give them their hard-earned cash.


For a quick and easy way to get in on the act, why don’t you start using the hashtag #TBT on social media networks like Instagram and Facebook? 

TBT stands for Throwback Thursday and since the likes of Facebook have become pretty nostalgic in the last 12 months (giving users prompts by showing them posts, conversations and photos from years gone by to share again), it seems like joining in this particular conversation would be beneficial for brands. It’ll show people where you started. And how far you’ve come. 

Nostalgia can counteract feelings of anxiety, feelings of boredom, feelings of loneliness.

Recent research from the University of Southampton found that nostalgia can counteract feelings of anxiety, feelings of boredom, feelings of loneliness. 

It can make people be more tolerant of outsiders and more generous to people they don’t know. In essence, it can make us all more human. 

Yes, it might make you feel sad or wistful to look back on the past, but ultimately it makes us all feel better. Any brand that can capitalise on this will surely see its customer base increase.

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