Nostalgia Marketing,
why do we like to live in the past?

Surely you have seen nostalgia marketing on social media. Remember when we had to decide whether we wanted to use the phone or browse the internet? How annoying was it when your brother watched a VHS but didn’t rewind the cassette after the movie was finished? When was the last time you fed your Tamagotchi? Can you remember creating your first mix tape – what songs did you pick for it?

You’re not the only one getting excited about such questions and reminiscing on the good old days. To be honest, we still love to remember those days. Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise you that nostalgia marketing is actually used as a successful marketing strategy.

What even is nostalgia?

Nostalgia is quite an interesting process. It’s not just an emotion but also a thought-process as an article by HuffPost suggests. Often, it is described as bittersweet – we like to remember the sweet moments of the past but the bitter part is that these are gone and we can’t just go back and relive them again.

Furthermore, nostalgia can be quite beneficial to our mental health. Even though it was referenced as something negative and even compared to homesickness and what we today know as depression, recent studies showed that nostalgia can actually be beneficial for our mental health. It’s described as “a source of strength, enabling the individual to face the future”. In fact, it seems to bring out the best in us, boosting creativity, increasing optimism, and much more.

It’s a phenomenon that’s also often seen when old music is played to the elderly. Their eyes start to light up, the mood lifts and often, you can hear them singing again. Positive feelings are activated as a result of bringing up old memories.

So, nostalgia really is something, that lifts up our mood – but what does it do in Marketing?

How nostalgia can have a lasting impact on your brand

Nostalgia gives us a feeling of belonging and purpose. Through this feeling of connectedness, people are more willing to spend money. A study that’s been published in the Journal of Consumer Research, “Nostalgia Weakens the Desire for Money”, has not just shown that through nostalgia marketing people are less attached to their money, but also that through a recession period, nostalgia can be used to support the economy.


In times where digital is the new normal, people often wish for a slower paced environment. Being active on Social Media 24/7 can become a lot of pressure and seeing new content posted almost every second might feel draining. We lose the connection to the people we follow and sometimes even our own friends. We’re living in a perfect world – at least if we look at the digital footprints we all leave behind. That this is not exactly the truth is known to all of us but often forgotten in the hustle and bustle we live every day. 

Seeing a picture that reminds us of the past, listening to a song from our childhood, smelling something that reminds us of an event from decades ago – all these things make us slow down, at least for a moment and give us a feeling of connection. Brands can use this to humanise themselves and connect with their audiences on a new level that a lot of generic content can’t. Bringing emotions into marketing campaigns has proven successful in many ways over the past centuries.

Nostalgia exists on many levels and in all areas of life. It can be connected with Christmas traditions that your grandma used to have. TV series you grew up with. Games you used to play. Music you used to hear. The one thing your mum used to make for your birthday. The tram you used to catch to uni. Nostalgia can be something very personal to you or something that impacted the whole region, country or society.

Who responds to Nostalgia Marketing?

You might be surprised but indeed it’s the Millennials who love Nostalgia Marketing the most. And they also love being nostalgic about a time they haven’t even been born into. Millennials are now aged between their mid twenties to late thirties. The 80s, 90s and early 2000s are decades that have proven great success within Nostalgia Marketing.

Many brands have brought back their history and shared “blasts from the pasts” with a modern twist. TV shows such as Stranger Things have brought back some classic and pop culture vibes.

Even though Nostalgia Marketing is a huge trend and can definitely be successful due to its emotional connection with the audience, it still needs to relate to your current brand and message. A simple post with a previous campaign won’t perform if you haven’t explained how it relates to your brand or product today.

If you are a new brand that can’t fall back on decades of business history, no need to worry. There are many start-ups out there making Nostalgia Marketing work for them by showing previous times without their products and how their products would have made the situation better. Again, it’s all about telling a story and linking it back to the present. While we all love remembering the past, don’t forget that we’re living in the present, planning for the future!

Nostalgia Marketing is something we certainly enjoy seeing but as all marketing strategies, it needs to be well planned and thought through. It’s not as easy and simple as it might look – that’s the art behind it. 

If you’ve used Nostalgia Marketing for your brand in the past, or maybe considered it but never taken the leap, we’d love to hear from you!

And if you’re not sure where to start, why not get in touch with our team? Give us a call on (03) 5068 1123

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