It’s not because it was perfect or even better than the present – in many ways, actually, it was worse. Yet when we look back, it’s often through a pair of distinctly rose-colored glasses. And here’s why…
It happened long enough ago that we don’t actually remember it very well at all. And what we do remember is mostly the good stuff, all heavily shadowed by our longing for a more carefree and easy time in our lives. We remember it in broad, positive strokes that give us a warm and fuzzy feeling.
In fact, the word, “nostalgia” comes from two Greek words that mean, “Homecoming” and “Ache.” So what you’re feeling when you hear the theme song from your prom or catch a rerun of Saved by the Bell (for folks of my generation at least) is a unique cocktail of pain and pleasure that only thinking of the past can inflict.
The question is, how can marketers tap into this powerful feeling? And why would they want to?
The Emotional Power of Nostalgia
Regardless of the industry you’re in or which service you provide, your goal as a marketer is to create a connection with your audience. The most powerful and lasting connection you can make is an emotional one. As persuasive as facts, figures, and evidence of your company’s success might be, it will never be as impactful as getting someone to feel something.
When it comes to digital content, you have a couple of target outcomes: Sharing and buying. The best piece of content, whether that be a blog post or a social media update, makes people want to share it with their friends, which gives you free exposure and a whole bunch of digital street cred. It also fosters a connection with your brand, which inspires them to become a customer or continue being a loyal customer.
One of the most powerful feelings that promotes both sharing and emotional bonds with your brand is nostalgia. Despite the seedling of pain in nostalgia, research has shown that it boosts our mood and gives us a feeling of belonging. So when you harken back to your audience’s past, they associate your brand with happiness and, furthermore, they feel like you get them, like you all belong to the same group.
And, of course, this happy reminder of their youth brings their friends to mind. Naturally, after I reminisce about the most ridiculous one hit wonders of the 90s, I want to share it with the people I jammed to those songs with in the 90s, so I post it to Facebook. If you don’t believe me, just look at how many nostalgic Buzzfeed listicles cross your social media feeds on a daily basis. This strategy works.
Rules of the Game
Before you start indiscriminately plastering your blog and social media pages in throwbacks, it’s important to understand how to use nostalgia in your marketing in an effective way. Here are a few helpful guidelines to be aware as you create your content:
- Don’t Overdo It – Don’t do nostalgia just for nostalgia’s sake or people will see it as a cheap marketing ploy. It should be relevant and connect to what your company does.
- Consider Your Audience – You have to do a little math here, but figure out the average age of your target customer, then find their nostalgic sweet spot by determining the years this group was between the ages of 6 and 18. That’s the period you focus on.
- Native Creator – The best people to create nostalgic marketing are those who experienced the period you’re harkening back to. Otherwise it could come across as inauthentic and even inaccurate.
- Have a Point – Try to say something original instead of just rehashing what other people have already said. Instead of, “Here Are 15 Weird Foods From the 80s,” do, “What Your Favorite Weird Food From the 80s Says About You.”
It’s time to put the theory and rules into practice. How you actually incorporate nostalgia into your marketing is going to look different depending on your industry and your company’s unique identity, but you can use these ideas to get your creativity flowing:
Start by gathering together a group of people in your company (from any and all departments) who are in the same age range as your target customer and have them brainstorm a huge list of things that remind them of their childhood and teenage years. Let the ideas flow naturally and record it all. You and your marketing team can revisit this list anytime you need some nostalgic inspiration.
2. Industry Throwback
One easy way to use nostalgia is to reflect on the history of your industry or company. For Throwback Thursday, post an image of the company’s old, super retro-looking logo or a funny advertisement from the industry 50 years go.
3. Spoof It
Nostalgia and humor go hand in hand, so why not have a little fun and create a short promo video for your company in the style of a cheesy 80s training video? Or take photos of your team and make them look like old 50s black and white sitcom stills? It’ll trigger nostalgic feelings and show that your company has a personality.
4. Get Personal
By its very definition, nostalgia is a very personal thing – after all, your goal is to inspire flashbacks to one’s own past. And there’s nothing people love more than sharing those flashbacks, so give them a forum by posting a nostalgic image related to your industry and asking them to respond in some way: What does this make you think of? Like if you know what this is! Share your best memory of this period. This is how you build community and create relationships.
There’s no denying that we all love taking a little trip down memory lane now and then. It just makes us feel good. Having that knowledge gives you marketing power.
You know that your audience likes feeling nostalgic and you know which time period triggers their nostalgia. So now it’s up to you to create content that bridges your company and that era in meaningful ways.
Good luck and may the nostalgia force be with you. (See what I did there?)