Why invoking nostalgia is one of the most effective marketing techniques


In one of the most iconic scenes from the Emmy Award-winning TV series Mad Men, advertising director Don Draper launches the name “carousel” for the Kodak slide projector. “[An old colleague] told me that the most important idea in advertising is “new”. Creates an itch – you just put your product in there, like some kind of calamine lotion, ”says Draper. “But he also spoke of a deeper connection to the product: nostalgia. It’s delicate, but powerful. “

As he flips through old photos of his family on the slide projector, Draper further describes the nostalgia as “a pang of heart far more powerful than just memory.” While Kodak’s (fictitious) marketers insisted that the word “wheel” be used to mark their futuristic technology, Draper sells the device as a time machine, rather than a spaceship.

This scene takes place in the 1960s. But if you fast forward to today, Draper’s message still resonates. Part of the reason is that the message still stands out: Many marketing strategies remain “new” focused, for understandable reasons. Especially in the tech world, consumers want to know what unique benefit your product brings to their lives, often requiring a new set of features to unlock that value.

But there will always be something new, the newest and the newest. It’s the ephemeral nature of technology – Draper called it a “glitter lure”. Distinct memories, on the other hand, are unique and irreplaceable. The use of nostalgia is the trigger that brings back those memories and emotions.

Research shows that people are 22 times more likely to remember a story than a fact. And that’s any story – nostalgia makes people remember their own stories. When you watch the 80s inspired TV series Strange things (and the surrounding marketing assets around the show), people of this generation – consciously or unconsciously – remember memories from that time and relate that positive experience to their viewing.

Spotify cleverly used the ’80s song “Never Ending Story” and the original film actor to say that the song is still playing today, with the tagline “Stories end. The songs are forever.” Uber used Wayne’s World cast Michael Myers and Dana Carvey to connect with fans of the show in the early ’90s, making their post to “Eat Local” even more compelling.

And these are examples that romanticize the past. A recent CarMax ad brings to life parts of our past that “we never need to relive again”, including wearing helmets, renting movies from a physical store, running with a CD player and – to pay for everything – have only one way to buy a car. Although these behaviors now seem ridiculous, they were a part of normal life at the time. With the selection of songs from Wilson Phillips’ “Hold On” for publicity, the brand is sending a clear signal of nostalgia, even if it doesn’t care.

My team and I wanted to evoke a similar emotion with our latest branding campaign at Yext. Our research platform is intended to replace keyword research, a technology that has not changed since the 1990s, yet still widely used. And so we personified keyword research and juxtaposed “him” with three other technologies of the time that evolved (cell phone, internet, and storage) during a fake high school reunion. As cellphones, the internet, and storage remember how far they have come since the 90s, Keyword Search stands out as an exaggerated character who is stuck in that time, right down to his frosty advice. For viewers who grew up in the ’90s, we hope they connect with the hardships of dial-up internet or clunky cellphones – and realize how absurd it is to use unchanged technology from that time to our days. days.

Of course, all of the brands mentioned above ultimately bring users into the present and explain the value proposition of their product. Focusing on the ‘new’, in one form or another, is here to stay. But what’s also timeless are the real human connections to our past, and this is where nostalgic marketing can serve as an effective and memorable way to capture the attention of your audience.

The opinions expressed here by the columnists of Inc.com are theirs and not those of Inc.com.


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