Millennials and Beyond: Why Nostalgia Driven Marketing Works

Ah, nostalgia. That warm echo of the good old days, a fuzzy notion that crosses one’s mind more often than not. It is such a powerful feeling that shapes our perception of today and tomorrow. Not only that, it impacts our behavior, including shopping and online habits.

The millennial generation has come to the turning point: chasing the elusive days gone, it is becoming reminiscent of the childhood years. However, nostalgia marketing is not by any means a new trend. Brands have long known that consumer loyalty is deeply soaked in emotions. What is new, though, is a digitally-shaped life experience that millennials bring to the marketing mix.


Blast from the past

Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are the largest living generation of today, which dethroned the good ole Baby Boomers only a few years ago. With substantial spending power, they are an essential demographic that brands across industries wish to reach. The go-to place for interaction comes in the form of social media and other digital channels.

Namely, the peculiarity of the Millennial Generation’s position is the fact that it was forged amidst the explosion of the Internet. As a first truly digital generation, it embraced social media and interacts not only with their peers, but brands as well. At the same time, almost 80% is aware that ads serve a clear purpose for brands and are no strangers to ad blockers.

Furthermore, recent studies have found that millennials are not eager to be a cog in the corporate machine, but seek meaningful work experience (sometimes they even value it more than money). And when they buy a product, they do not want to add just another item to their collection. They crave to fulfill a certain lifestyle goal and express themselves through consumerism.


Angle of approach

To approach such a demanding audience, marketers have pulled one ace out of their sleeve: nostalgia. This feeling is generally perceived as a yearning for something and sometime past. Psychology is not unanimous when it comes to the definition of nostalgia. Many describe it as a form of self-deception that distorts and idealizes the past, a stance that psychoanalysis somewhat shares.

What is certain is that nostalgia reaffirms and provides the much-needed context. Bringing meaningful memories and experiences, it shows direction and guides one’s decisions. As such, it is suitable ammo for priming marketing cannons aimed at booming digital ecosystem. A Study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that people are more likely to spend when influenced by nostalgia.


A fruitful, socially-approved marriage

Social media marketing and nostalgia are a match made in heaven. Millennials hold digital video platforms in the highest regard and shun traditional television. Likewise, they tend to be collaborative and dependent on their peers. Moreover, they often turn to social media for advice regarding purchase decisions. Ultimately, with the help of these platforms, they can satisfy the innate sense of belonging and seek validation for their choices.

Meanwhile, brand waste no time evoking the notions of happier and carefree days of childhood, reintroducing us with things we recognize from before. Naturally, 90s references are a surefire tactic to capture attention. After all, it is an era that raised the millennials and introduced them to the mysterious world of adulthood. Major brands like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Microsoft, KFC, and Calvin Klein are well aware of this and re-launching old product favorites.

Others have quickly followed suit, generating a tide of reboots, reruns, and retools. Quality content marketing is an amazing demonstration of the sheer power of nostalgia. Millennials eagerly share brand posts, giving their stamp of approval to a worthy cause. Nostalgia manifests here as a desire to walk down memory lane together, as a digitally-interconnected community, with brands as beacons illuminating the soothing way there.


A slippery slope to watch out for

Alas, catering to the children of the 90s is not as simple as it seems. Marketers do walk a fine line that separates being outdated and successfully awakening nostalgia. For instance, there is no need to use the design that is not trendy and falls short of solutions that leading digital marketing agencies are championing. The essence of the message is what matters and the cause behind it, while the form should have a current appeal.  

Moreover, marketers must be careful not to come across as pandering and patronizing. Authenticity remains the key and that is why brands do their best to explain how they have grown together with the consumers. This brings us to the final point. One cannot dwell in nostalgia forever. Brands also must find a way to make millennials part of the bigger story and create new brand associations.


Days of future past

Millennials are financially and tech-empowered demographic, which shapes the face of modern digital marketing. Nostalgia inevitably strikes a chord with them just like it did with every generation before them. This time around, though, we have digital revolution as a backdrop.

Millennials are certainly keen on spending their money, following brands on social media, and sharing their content. But, it is no small feat to take them on a nostalgia trip. Brands have to make them fall in love with the past again and feel better about the future. Speaking of future, nostalgia driven marketing will outlive the millennial wave, and embrace a new generation.  

Done right, nostalgia-driven marketing always works. Even when it is nothing more than an idolized, inaccurate account of the past, we cannot help but cling on to it.

Add comment

Follow us

Don't be shy, get in touch. We love meeting interesting people and making new friends.

Most discussed