Nostalgia marketing creates an urge to spend

By Petra Clayton

Look around you and you will see you are surrounded by reminders of your youth. Songs reinvented for a younger audience that were once crooned by a heart throb. Fashion shamefully on its third, fourth or even fifth rotation of the catwalk. And the resurrection of TV dramas that were once enjoyed as part of a three terrestrial channel treat.

Nostalgia is big and it’s used by many brands and services across the globe to tug on the heart strings of both the business and leisure consumer to spend, spend, spend.

In 2013 I gave a talk at BDRC Continental’s fifth annual Hotel Insight Forum, to hoteliers in the UK, to share my thoughts on successful and impactful marketing campaigns in the industry using nostalgia. This use of emotional and reference marketing to transport the consumer back to a time when they felt more positive about life can often cause them to ‘reminisce’ themselves into a relationship with your business.

For me, nostalgic references always hark back to the 80s – Spandau Ballet, ra-ra skirts, leg warmers and Rubik’s Cubes. In terms of food and drink, it was all about dinner parties in trousers that could be mistaken for windbreakers and dishes that simmered in a bag. Of course, everyone will have their own decade to refer back to with their fondest memories and ‘do you remember when…?’ moments, but these are just some of mine.

Marketers are the first to spot an opportunity to enter the mind and strike an emotional chord with a consumer and the big brands are certainly leading the way. Reminding a customer of a brand’s heritage can be a powerful demonstration of staying power and reliability, evoking memories from a consumer’s formative years and unleashing all the powerful feelings associated with those times.

Virgin Atlantic had one of the most successful campaigns when it celebrated 25 years in the sky with a £6 million nostalgia campaign complete with an ad set in 1984, when the airline first started.

Driven by the recession, Virgin harnessed the ‘make do and mend’ society by providing a feeling of safety, comfort, warmth and familiarity. We know most consumers look back on the past with rose-tinted glasses and are ready to spend on any product that can help them recreate those cherished moments and feelings of security.

Aside from big brands, social media has provided a platform that has captured the nostalgia era of marketing. Just take a look at the Facebook page “I grew up in the 80s” with 350,000 fans, fully engaged in the content and sharing with friends from times gone by.

Nostalgia gets people talking and that’s key to any marketing campaign, but never forget the importance of relevance – without it you are just talking and never engaging.