Nostalgia-driven marketing can be used in a campaign to form a bond with your audience. People will react to memories that trigger certain time and feel.

The narrative of “good old times” has been present for a very long time – basically, since the civilization as we know it has started to develop. It seems not to be a culture-specific feeling, but instead a universal notion that can be found in many peoples and eras. We have always longed for the past times, sometimes even for those, we haven’t actually witnessed. This narrative has gone so far that for centuries, people have believed that the times they currently live in are so corrupted that the end of the world is right behind the corner, coming to punish mankind for their sins.

Why Nostalgia Marketing Strategy Works?

Nostalgia Driven Marketing Strategy Works
Nostalgia Driven Marketing Strategy Works


This is a recurring philosophical subject as well. Most famously, Rousseau inspired generations of thinkers to assume that the foulness of humans was due to cultural and economic factors and that there once was a primitive, uncorrupted state of mankind we should yearn for.

On the surface, it seems like nostalgia is often caused by simple associations with times when we were safe, careless and innocent. Most of the movies, music or even sports players that we loved as kids are probably not nearly as good as we remember them. But we hold on to them firmly as if that way we’re holding on to a time that we found simple and enjoyable.

It looks like same goes for products we consumed in those good old times. We’ve seen a lot of companies reinventing their old products, commercials, mascots and packages or simply reminding people of a leitmotif of a particular era, trying to appeal to a certain generation of consumers. Does this work and why? Which processes in human consciousness are responsible for the success of such business endeavours? How to get the most of nostalgia in your marketing efforts? Let’s look into this subject in a bit more detail.

How does nostalgia work?

Often, we relate nostalgia to a feeling of sadness for something that has long been gone, but researchers claim there’s another side to it. Nostalgia may be caused by feelings of such kind, but its ultimate effect is a bit different. When employed regularly, it’s a good way to battle loneliness and anxiety.

It can also make people feel more like their life isn’t wasted. Good memories do induce a kind of a bittersweet feeling because of the fact that those times are not coming back, but at the end of the day, they’re the thing that makes our lives worth living. We also tend to make these memories too romanticized and idealize them.


This is in accord with what Daniel Dennett, a cognitive scientist and a philosopher claims about the way people’s perception of themselves work. In his book, Consciousness Explained, he states that we are the creators of our past, and we reshape it according to our emotional needs. This is a sort of a defence mechanism, fighting against the dangers of trauma or meaninglessness. In order to find a point to our lives and not lose the grip, we look at our past through a lens that usually makes it nicer than it actually was. In the end, we manage to convince ourselves that this is the true version of our earlier life.

Who’s affected the most?

This is especially true in times of certain important transitions in our lives, and that’s why young adults are usually influenced the most by nostalgia. When the whole world as we know is shaken and changing, we need something to hold on to. A reminiscence of a careless childhood is much more pleasant than the experience of looking for your first job.

This means that, currently, if you want to base your marketing strategy on nostalgia, the millennials are the best target group around. There are two additional reasons for this. Firstly, as Cassandra McIntosh, senior insight analyst at Exponential claims, young adulthood is specifically traumatic nowadays because of the collapse of the job market, caused by the economic crisis.


Secondly, millennials are the first “digital natives” that were born into the digital era which means that their memories are constantly recorded and put before them through all sorts of devices and social media. Also, all this has led to an information overload, compressing their sense of time and making them long for times as recent as last week.

Marketing benefits

So finally, apart from millennials being the perfect target group for a nostalgia-driven campaign, which other takeaways are there that would be significant for your marketing efforts? A lot of branding and design agencies, as well as marketing companies and renowned corporations, have taken full advantage of nostalgia. Evoking the right memories at the right time can do wonders for the growth of your social networks. Posts trying to arouse the feeling of nostalgia has a lot of potentials to go viral as they can provoke an entire generation to share it and talk about it. There’s a good reason why we’re flooded with the “only 90s kids will understand this” posts lately. They simply work.

However, nostalgia-based marketing also has some more direct effects as it can affect people’s spending habits. Namely, according to a research, nostalgia evokes the feeling of social connectedness, which causes people to value money less. This, in turn, makes it easier for them to spend money and not care too much about it. Hence any nostalgic aspect of your product or your marketing campaign can increase your sales by exploiting people’s inclination to stop thinking in a rational and economic way when they find themselves in a nostalgic environment.

How to do it right

Nostalgia Driven Marketing Strategy Works
Nostalgia Driven Marketing Strategy Works


Nevertheless, the fact that nostalgia can work in marketing doesn’t mean that it will always work. It’s extremely important that you don’t just make use of a past event or collective memory in a plain, primitive way, without offering any new value. If you’re using vintage products or campaigns again, you have to reinvent them and make them relatable to the present day. Otherwise, you’ll just look desperate, out of touch with reality and it’ll seem like you’re doing that just because you’re out of ideas so you decided to appeal to the most elementary human emotions and take advantage of them. It’s simply not the way to do it.

A great example of a successful reinvention of an old product is Pepsi’s revival of Crystal Pepsi. This was a popular drink back in the 90s and Pepsi decided to bring it back for eight weeks in 2016. Together with this, the company released a video game called “The Crystal Pepsi Trail”, which was a tribute to the “Oregon Trail”. “Oregon Trail” is an evergreen video game that was developed in the 70s and had a huge impact on the kids who grew up in the 80s and 90s.  

What Pepsi did here was using multiple media and multiple senses to touch a number of people’s weak spots and intrigue them in numerous different ways. Secondly, it’s very important that this game can still be interesting to today’s kids. This means that Pepsi didn’t just plan to engage their old, nostalgic customers, but also tried to appeal to the new generations at the same time. Here, they attempted to boost their brand by creating emotional bonds not only between the company and its customers but also between two different generations of customers – particularly, parents and their kids.


And this is the key lesson to be learned about nostalgia-driven marketing. The fact that it evokes strong emotions in people and makes them more inclined to like, share or spends money doesn’t mean your job here is easy or simple. For a successful campaign, it’s not enough to just induce a certain feeling in people and then sit back and relax. You need a careful strategy that would be built on these emotions, but also includes something fresh, valuable and relevant to the era we live in and the new generations.

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