Nostalgia Marketing: Making the Old New and the New Old


Nostalgia is part of being human — one of the better parts. While we often have slightly different ideas about what nostalgia involves, in one way or another it comes back to re-living certain moments and moods, to re-experiencing the happiest moments in our lives.

It’s no wonder, then, that marketers try to tap into nostalgia. Nostalgia makes you feel better about yourself and the world around you. If a company can get you to extend those good vibes to its brand and products, it amounts to a major marketing score.

So how do you go about bringing nostalgia into your digital campaign? Isn’t the fast-paced world of digital marketing almost the antithesis of the thoughtful reflection that we associate with nostalgia? Actually, not really. Smart digital marketing can go hand-in-hand with nostalgia. Here are is how you can make the old new again while making the new seem old.

Make the Old New

In the age of digital marketing, few things stand out more than a printed page. Sure, a glossy print magazine might seem like a counterintuitive way to educate readers about cutting edge digital products, but that’s exactly the point. Holding a well designed magazine in your hands takes you back to another time and place — a time and place that valued quality and thoughtful reflection. That’s why Chango puts so many resources into its quarterly magazine, The Programmatic Mind. No email blast or website could ever instill the same emotions readers feel as they turn the magazine’s beautifully designed pages.

While you’re at it, why not create some nostalgic for the age of great writing, an age when journalism was built upon carefully crafted sentences rather than keywords and pageviews. Yes, you might have to pay a little extra for a top-notch writer, but if you’re making the investment in print, it only makes sense to fill those printed pages with crisp, jargon-free prose.

Nostalgia marketing is built upon the past, but the best nostalgia marketing doesn’t simply recreate the past so much as breathe new life into it. Think of State Farm’s current campaign, which makes use of the best Saturday Night Live sketches from a generation ago. Had State Farm simply rehashed the same old Hans and Franz jokes, the campaign might have felt stale. Instead, State Farm brought Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers into the ads, allowing the humor to feel fresh and contemporary while simultaneously filling us with nostalgia for the laughter of our childhoods.

Make the New Old

Using new technology to evoke nostalgia might sound oxymoronic at first, but remember that a lot of tech firms understand the importance of nostalgia and have already built it into their products. Instagram’s filters are perhaps the best example. Indeed, Instagram’s massive success might be fairly attributed to the nostalgia induced by those striking filters. Pinterest, likewise, brought nostalgia to the web by giving us all the feeling of using an old-fashioned pin board.

This isn’t to say that you need to use Instagram and Pinterest in your next campaign. But it is to say that when you’re choosing which app or tool to employ, it can be wise to choose ones that create a mood of familiarity and warmth even as the technology dazzles and delights.

Not everyone likes to admit it, but everyone is nostalgic at least some of the time. Perhaps ironically, the digital marketers who understand how to tap into this yearning for the past may one day own the future.



About the author

Bryan Bartlett is the Editor in Chief and Marketing Manager at Chango