Shockingly I am going to make a pop culture reference to start off this article. I am being quite sarcastic for if you know me, you know of my penchant for infusing pop culture into everything. Yes, everything.
Look no further than this article for Exhibit A.
So today’s pop culture reference comes courtesy of The Doobie Brothers. Yes, I know I am dating myself and I could probably find a more recent reference if I wanted to but, I’m tired and besides I like this reference.
So there. (sticking my tongue out)
Way back in 1978, The Doobies released a song entitled What A Fool Believes. One of the lyrics in the song, which is about a man who had been wronged by a woman earlier in his life – is “she musters a smile for his nostalgic tale.”
Well when it comes to the topic of nostalgic marketing this particular fool, AKA yours truly, happens to believe that there is undeniably a place for it the hearts of consumers.
A few months ago an AdWeek piece touched on the fact that “a burst of ’90s nostalgia broke out on Twitter … causing the hashtag #InThe90sIThought to start trending nationally.”
The piece included samples of how some brands were capitalizing on the “burst” including this Tweet from Paramount.
— Paramount Movies (@ParamountMovies) June 10, 2015
Another fantastic example comes courtesy of Chango, who went Back to the Future, literally for this SlideShare.
Coca-Cola And Cocoa
Two more examples of nostalgia marketing come from Coca-Cola and Mars Inc. specifically Crispy M&M’s. Each brand worked with Collective Bias, a Shopper Social Media™ platform that works with a network of over 4K social influencers who create sponsored content on behalf of brands.
“Influencer content is a great way to revive iconic brands,” says Holly Pavlika, SVP, Brand Strategy for Collective Bias. “In the case of Mars, fans clamoring for their Crispy M&Ms made the brand take another look at bringing them back.”
Pavlika and her team worked with Mars to help revive Crispy M&M’s from its ‘90s heyday in the “Crispy Is Back” campaign. Influential bloggers created online content linking back to a featured landing page on the Mars website. The Twitter Party for this nostalgia marketing program made Crispy M&M’s a nationally trending topic.
As for Coca-Cola, the “Share It Forward” campaign the company did with them was designed to motivate Millennial consumers to shop for Coca-Cola products at Walmart specifically, with the goal of increasing sales of 20-ounce bottles. With Coca-Cola celebrating the 100th anniversary of its iconic glass bottle this year, they used nostalgic messaging to encourage shoppers to purchase bottles not only for themselves, but also for friends, family and co-workers.
Amanda Whittaker, Sr. Shopper Marketing Manager, Coca-Cola North America: “There is nothing more special than drinking an ice-cold Coca-Cola from an 8-ounce glass bottle – it’s the perfect, refreshing experience. By reminding our shoppers of this specialness in a way that is relevant to today, we hoped to reenergize this nostalgic package with consumers.”
It looked like the “reenergization” worked as Walmart’s 20-ounce Coca-Cola sales growth was double the growth experienced by all other large retailers combined during the 4-week program with sales peaks hitting as high as +40%.
Do This, Don’t Do That
I asked Pavlika for some Do’s and Dont’s when it comes to nostalgia marketing and reviving a nostalgic brand.
Do know who your target audience(s) are. Different generations have different associations and experiences with a brand and the nostalgic aspects can greatly vary between individuals.
Do identify how your brand can connect to an aspect of the past. Make sure any nostalgic campaign focuses on things like simpler times and happier days, some of the attributes that we long for.
Do leverage social media. Listen to your customers like Crispy M&Ms did. If they are showing demand for a product, put the customer first and bring back the product.
Do poll your customers. Creating noise about potentially bringing back a product is a great way to capture new customers and gather insights. And to make sure if you use nostalgia that it will be relevant for today’s audiences.
Do invite your community in for ideas. Bring back the old with a new twist.
Don’t change the product so that you lose the very thing people love.
Don’t choose the nostalgic route if you have a young brand.
Don’t forget to tap into influencers to create nostalgic stories. Social is all about storytelling. People love stories that take people behind the brand. And influencers love this kind of social currency.
For the final word on this topic I turned to Gregory Carpenter, James Farley/Booz Allen Hamilton Professor of Marketing Strategy at the Kellogg School of Management:
“People become especially nostalgic when they are anxious about the present and, especially, the future. The past is safe because it is completely predictable. Connecting with the past through familiar, loved brands transports people to another time by evoking the same feelings they experienced so long ago.
It works well for brands that have an authentic connection with the past, especially some powerful associations with it (e.g, the VW Beetle). It can work for brands without an authentic connection to the past if the brands can create that familiar feeling without. This is tricky but can be done. It is aspirational for some but at the same time nostalgic.”