Nostalgia Marketing: a Blast from the Past, or Just a Dead Duck?

4th Oct 2017

Our Marketing Manager Aaron talks about a recent boom in nostalgia marketing and the perils and pleasures that come with it.


Nostalgia is a curious condition triggered by various stimuli; people, music, environments - but most commonly it is born from a simple thought.

Over the last few years, we really have journeyed to the past in epic proportions and seen some serious childhood revivals. Pokémon, butterfly clips, Nokia 3310, Marvel, Old Spice and Furbies, to name a few.

If you need convincing of how much people enjoy a trip down memory lane, just look at the positive reception for #ThrowbackThursday and popularity of Timehop or Facebook's on this day feature. Even we're jumping on the trend, so keep your eyes peeled for our very own #Q4TBT on Instagram!

Embracing content from a previous time has long been a powerful tool in retail marketing. You may remember a recent promotion where Coca Cola gave away their old-style glass bottles, aiming to trigger memories of the good old days and bring their consumers back to a simpler time.

That got me thinking - with retailers looking to improve or, in most cases, maintain market share, maybe they should pull on our heart strings and hit us with a dose of nostalgic marketing to drive us to spend in their stores.

I then asked a simple question on LinkedIn: Which brands do you miss from the UK High Street? And the most commented answer was Woolworths. Why? Well, pic 'n' mix of course. People look back and fondly remember the days of venturing into Woolworths just to spend a tenner on an overflowing tub of sweets, and maybe pick up a CD whilst you're there.

So, offer pic 'n' mix in your stores and the sales will follow, right? Perhaps not, but if you can create a nostalgic or emotional connection within the shopping experience, you may be onto something.

It looks like Morrison's are looking to use nostalgia to hook customers and tap into residual fondness by bringing back Safeway. They are not resurrecting a supermarket chain but simply driving their convenience offering forwards, and analysts are predicting that the memories of the once stalwart allies of the UK supermarket landscape will help to boost sales.


As was shown with Adidas relaunch of the Gazelle and Carlsberg's return to the probably campaign, you can't simply roll out a carbon copy of what previously existed; a name will only go so far! Reinvention is vital, but it is paramount that the connection is not superficial otherwise the interaction will be short-lived.

Even when bringing back an offering from years past, if you are unable to adapt it and set a modern context around the offer, then you will be seen as dated, out of touch and irrelevant; especially to Millennials and Gen Z audiences.

So, imagine that you have the idea, the brand and the product - but what about the actual customer journey? What about the ever so important in-store experience? How do you make it a reality and most importantly, connect with the customer?

Well, we have been doing this for both UK-based and global brands for the last 15 years. Just look at what we did with M&Ms.

Working with Nestlé, we launched the first M&Ms world store in Europe with additional fixtures provided for other locations. We also developed a tender pack for global sourcing that is now rolled out all over the world, including in London, NYC, LA and Tokyo.

Nestlé were able to play on the nostalgic emotions tied to 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' and, with that, we helped them deliver a world of pure imagination.

So, is nostalgia marketing a stroke of genius or are some things better left in the past? Well, that depends on how well you can execute your idea - so whatever you do, make it relevant, emotive and always adapt the concept to align with modern-day customer expectations.

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