How brands can use nostalgia in marketing to create inspiring content

Using nostalgia in marketing can be very powerful. Brands know the ability nostalgia can play in shaping emotions, attitudes and actions. 

Occasionally, it can have the effect of making people dwell on what they’ve lost, which is best to avoid. Instead, try to use nostalgia in marketing to focus on shared memories, how these can bring people together, and use these memories to create new experiences and find inspiration.

When I attended a great webinar by Canvas8, they talked about the three key ways brands can use nostalgia in marketing:

  1. Helping them create conversations.
  2. Creating social value.
  3. Bringing people together by exploring cultural memories.

I’ve picked up on a few brands using these techniques. It’s definitely worth considering something similar for your campaigns. 

Use past experiences and emotions to create powerful new ones

A lot of storytelling uses the same archetypes and themes that have been popular for countless generations because they resonate with the human experience. So, our experiences, and the emotions they created, are often things that others can empathise with, because they’ve experienced similar things themselves.

We don’t need to painstakingly recreate the past to relive these memories. We can experience them again in different ways. 

Brands can explore this by asking themselves a few questions. How do people relate to your products? How did they relate to them in the past, and how can they in the future?

Nintendo, for example, has a rich history to explore. If you go back to the time that the Switch was launched, Nintendo was sort of regarded as more of a kids’ gaming platform. For the most part, adults had moved on to other game platforms or just stopped gaming.

When it came to marketing the Switch, Nintendo used its launch trailer to show it would fit into the busy lives of teens and adults.

Later, it used nostalgia in marketing well when it created the Two Brothers ad, which showed the brothers playing games as boys and then playing games as adults using the Switch. Nintendo showed how playing games together could help people create new memories with the richness of the old ones.

By getting to the root of why people use your products, you can create campaigns that connect with people on a much more meaningful level.

Show people how the thing they’re nostalgic about can evolve into something else that adds something new and different to their lives

Nostalgia can be quite a paralysing experience – longing for what we’ve lost, searching for ways to get back to that feeling, sometimes with people who are no longer there. People can quite easily get so stuck in their memories that they lose sight of their future.

If you’re going to use nostalgia in your campaigns, reflective nostalgia – that uses past memories to build new experiences – is the best way to create content that provokes emotion but also inspires people to act.

Spotify did a great job of using this sort of nostalgia when it worked with the actor (and used the imagery) from the movie The NeverEnding Story. People were still listening to the soundtrack 20 years later. 

The tag line for the ad? “Stories end. Songs are forever.”

The ad reminds people about the power of music, encouraging them to sign up for more.

Using nostalgia in marketing to encourage conversation and connection.

One of the most popular ways that brands use nostalgia – especially on social media – is through memes. 

It’s not uncommon to see a trending meme on social media that says things like “who remembers these?” or “you know you were a child of the 90s if…”. 

People love connecting over shared experiences, especially after a time when many have felt so disconnected from others. Nostalgia, when used well, can help you create content that not only inspires, but really resonates with a lot of people.

Nostalgia can be a very effective tool for marketers, but it’s much more effective when brands use it to help people look to the future or celebrate what they have now.

It helps people remember what values, themes and emotions are important to them and helps them find new ways to keep these aspects of ourselves alive in the present.

It’s not about what we did with the product, but about how it made us feel and the experiences we shared with each other.

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