Nostalgia is a strange emotion. It hurts, but in the sweetest of ways. When we think back to days gone by, there’s often a golden haze surrounding the memories. We tend to skip right over the bad parts and idealize the good, and we ache for those good bits. It’s this powerful emotion, this want—this need—that marketers find so powerful.
See, buyers are willing to actually pay more for something that might ease that sweet ache. In recent experiments, buyers were shown nostalgic ads for products and ads that would foster creating new memories. Those viewing the ads that tapped into nostalgia were willing to pay more for the same products, simply because of that hazy golden glow they felt while viewing the marketing materials.
Okay, so maybe the hazy golden glow is a little dramatic—an effect used in movies—but you get the idea, right? That’s why shows like Mad Men and this season’s most anticipated Stranger Things draw such big audiences.
And Speaking of Stranger Things…
That nostalgia is already hard at work with the entire series of Stranger Things, and some brands are reaping the benefits. Some of the brands that saw a spike in awareness over the past two seasons are Eggo (thanks, Eleven!), Coca-Cola, Kentucky Fried Chicken (it wasn’t KFC yet back then, even though Steve definitely called it that), Polaroid, and Mrs. Butterworth.
And brands definitely took advantage of the notoriety, some simply piggybacking on the popularity and others hammering out cross-marketing deals for the upcoming season. Take a look at some of the funnest and funniest Stranger Things-themed content from the past few years.
Eleven piece bucket… stranger things have happened 👀👀pic.twitter.com/m3SxRW0spZ
— KFC UK & Ireland (@KFC_UKI) October 27, 2017
You: *Learns what a Triple Decker Eggo Spectacular is*
Also you: WE NEED ENERGY FOR OUR TRAVELS pic.twitter.com/jHNRmr7XqD
— Stranger Things (@Stranger_Things) October 28, 2017
Coke’s Bringing the Big Guns
Obviously, the Stranger Things cross-marketing campaigns are working. That’s why Coca-Cola has decided to go all out for this newest season. Remember 1985? I’m sorry. I should have prefaced this with, “Hey, Gen Xers! Remember 1985?” This was the year Coca-Cola introduced their ill-fated new formula, which lasted all of 79 days on the market before they yanked it back and re-introduced Coca-Cola Classic.
Well, since this season of Stranger Things takes place in 1985, Coke’s new formula is coming back—for a limited time. They already introduced the product at DFW airport, complete with an upside-down vending machine. Customers were treated to a free can of the old “New Coke” for one day before it disappeared.
They’re also making half a million cans of “New” Coke for Stranger Things fans to snap up before they’re gone. Mosey on over to the Coke Store to see the deal they’ve got, which features two glass bottles of Stranger Things-themed Coca-Cola and Coke Zero, plus two “complimentary” cans of New Coke, all for the low, low price of $19.95. There’s that Nostalgia Effect in its full glory.
just a couple thirsty boys having a night out in 1985 pic.twitter.com/lE6I2Fa04U
— Stranger Things (@Stranger_Things) June 14, 2019
Harnessing That Power for Your Brand
Figuring out how to get buyers to spend $20 on something that would normally cost around $5 isn’t hard. You just have to tap into that nostalgia that has them digging deeper into their wallets. There are just a few guidelines you’ll need to follow.
First, keep your audience in mind. You can’t go prodding the memories that your buyers just don’t have. Millennials may not understand that draw that Generation X feels toward New Coke—a product they HATED the first time around but will gladly shell out extra for now because of their rose-colored view of the past. Generation Z just won’t get the draw Millennials felt toward Jordan Catalano, and definitely didn’t understand when kids of the 90s lost their minds over the return of Clearly Canadian sparkling water a few years ago.
OMG WHO REMEMBERS CLEARLY CANADIAN?! pic.twitter.com/JEtn9YPEjH
— Cassandra Lee Morris (@SoCassandra) May 8, 2016
Knowing your audience is key to determining the nostalgic touches that are likely to prompt them to make a purchase.
It may hurt to admit, but there’s a chance that tapping consumer nostalgia just doesn’t fit your brand. And that’s okay. You don’t want to change your brand message or vision for the sake of one product, just to get a bump in exposure or even sales. The damage that could do to your brand could far outweigh the potential benefits.
Let’s be honest: Could releasing the generally hated New Coke again into the wild be the best look for Coca-Cola? Only time will tell. The same is true for the Levi’s crossover. Some designs are killer, like the upside-down Levi’s logo, while others raise all eyebrows in the room.
Before jumping back into the “good ol’ days,” make sure your plans fit your brand. Make sure your products fit your brand. And don’t hesitate to test your marketing before releasing into the world to make sure you’ll get the reaction you’re hoping for.
Keep Delivery Methods Fresh
You may be tapping into those memories of the past, but that doesn’t mean you need to use outdated delivery methods. Sure, a piece of paper mail can grab attention with the right campaign, and a billboard or TV ad can vastly increase exposure, but be ready to back that up with current marketing outlets. People may want to remember the past fondly, but they’re living in the here and now, connecting with brands through social media and searching for brands on Google.
You must continue to pay attention to your SEO, social posts, and website content if you want a nostalgic marketing campaign to get any traction. Use hashtags, boost posts, and invite influencers to share their reviews.
What are your favorite nostalgia marketing campaigns? More importantly, will you be watching Stranger Things when it drops on Thursday? That’s where I’ll be, but without the New Coke.