· By ALONA ELKAYAM
The Nostalgia Cure: How brands can go vintage to viral
Ai. Blockchain. ChatGPT. Creator economy. He/she/they. You People. Patagonia. Impossible Foods. Vladimir Zelensky. Tik Tok. Ye. Jacinda Ardem. M&M color wars. Climate change. Racial inequality.
We’re living through one of the most profound cultural revolutions since the renaissance. Sacred rules and cultural myths are being rewritten in every part of society. While change and an uncertain future can be disorienting, it’s the speed of change that leaves us little time or space to deal with the loss of the things we need to let go of in order to stay modern.1
The cure? Nostalgia.
Clay Routledge, a leading expert in the psychology of nostalgia and experimental existential psychology believes, “many are turning to nostalgia, even if they do not consciously realize it, as a stabilizing force and a way to keep in mind what they cherish most.”
Nostalgia is not exclusive behavior of our elders with their cherished memories. Every generation is tapping into nostalgia for the warm and fuzzies–especially zoomers–and brands are getting in on it.
Nostalgia brands from the 80’s and 90’s, like Niantic’s Pokémon and Hanesbrand’s Champion, are making a comeback with the help of millennials and GenZ (zoomers), a surprising trend for a generation that probably never heard of Champion until last year. 2
Surge, Coca Cola’s version of Red Bull, had a loyal following of gamers in the 90’s, and enjoyed a re-release after fans demanded it in 2021. From T-Mobile’s Scrub’s reunion with Zach Braff, Donald Faison, and a John Travolta easter egg appearance; to Serena Williams’ Caddyshack parody for Michelob, the trend from this year’s Superbowl commercial wars was nostalgia.
Beyond marketing, nostalgia has found success in film, television, and music–fueled by social media like TikTok where GenZ makes up 60% of its users.
The success of Netflix’ Stranger Things for GenZ can be cited in their attraction to a world before smartphones and a longing for simplicity. Last year brought That 90’s Show, a spin-off of That 70’s Show that launched the careers of Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis; Barbie the movie;” and Wednesday, a spinoff of the 1960’s series The Addams Family, to name a few.
Wes Anderson’s signature is a meticulous homage to nostalgia in every frame of every film he has ever made, but none more prominent than in Grand Budapest Hotel and his most recent, The French Dispatch.
According to Axios, the music of the 90’s is more popular than ever. This past year we had Rage Against the Machine, the Backstreet Boys, the Black Crowes and the Fugees’ reunions.
Two weeks ago, at a lounge in New York called Leave Rochelle Out of It, DJ Klutch spun remixes of “Cruel Summer” by Bananorama and “Promiscuous Girl” by Nelly Furtado, hits from the ‘80s and ’90s, against the abstract tones of cloud rap, a genre that originated in the early 2010s, to a room full of dancing zoomers, and me. The zoomers had their hands in their air and knew all the words–like I did.
Like the etymology of the word itself, nostos meaning ‘return to home’ and algia meaning ‘a painful condition,’ nostalgia gives us comfort, hope, and grounding that everything is ok. For GenZ’ers who experienced the pandemic, climate change, the overthrow of our government, the Russian-Ukrainian War, human-augmented reality–authenticity and comfort, matter.
For marketers, tapping into nostalgia can revive lagging marketing performance for any target audience. Here are a few tips to help jumpstart your vintage to viral marketing strategy.
Far From Timid has a new weekly series called The Comeback where we explore retro brand revivals, nostalgia brands, and brand comebacks. Follow us on TikTok or LinkedIn.
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