3 Ways to Incorporate Nostalgia in Marketing

October 14th, 2014

How do you define nostalgia?

To me, it’s lying in a hammock and reading the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy on hot August days. And playing card games around the dining room table after the holiday dishes are cleared.

Nostalgia is unique to everyone, of course, but there is one thing that’s common to us all: It has a sensory trigger that brings back memories of unfettered happiness. No one around the table is storming off angrily, or furiously texting a friend. Everyone is fully in the moment.

As such, there’s a good case for brands to use nostalgia in their content.

According to a Hubspot piece by Erik Davaney, research shows that nostalgia is most often triggered by a negative emotion, but quickly lifts us out of our funk. It has been shown to deliver powerful psychological benefits, including less stress, higher self esteem, feeling connected with others, and optimistic about the future.

No wonder marketers have sought nostalgia as a strategy to win the hearts and minds of consumers. If you can make people feel good about themselves, you can make them feel good about your brand. As Mr. Davaney says, “When it comes to growing a loyal following of folks who love your business, creating content that makes them feel good seems like a winning strategy.”

So how do you leverage nostalgia in today’s fast-paced and highly digital world? Start by reinventing a nostalgic marketing or digital vehicle that builds your brand, but doesn’t hit the consumer over the head with commercialism. Below are three tactics to consider.

1. Take what’s old and make it new again.

Nothing delights as us more than being able to say, “I remember those!” The first step to successful nostalgia marketing is to take what’s old and make it new again for a digital world.

What’s old? In the digital ad era, newspapers, magazines, and direct mail are relics of the past, but they’d make a huge impact if pressed back into service. The trick is to make sure that whatever you do, you do it with a twist.

For many people, paper-based communications are associated with landfills and junk mail. You need to break through that barrier by creating something recipients want to read and hold on to. Chango’s quarterly magazine, The Programmatic Mind, can be found in the lobbies of most interactive agencies. The best direct-mail campaigns these days are works of art, delivered via FedEx and DHL.

There’s a downside, of course: Cost. It’s not cheap to produce and courier-deliver magazines and great direct mail pieces. But they do offer terrific staying power.

2. Use nostalgia and familiarity to get consumers’ attention.

In our industry, receiving a high-gloss magazine may seem a curious way to educate readers on your latest digital ad-tech wares, but reading old-fashioned articles (a word that has fallen by the wayside, replaced by the more generic ‘content’) will deliver that in-the-momentness you need to succeed. And they’re refreshing breaks from the hyper-truncated posts and Tweets.

Whatever you create, be sure to keep the writing jargon free, lest you bore your reader. Your topic is interesting (after all, you’ve successfully built a business around it!). Let it come out in the writing.

And be humble. The best pieces don’t hit readers over the head with the brand messaging. Take a cue from paint manufacturer Sherwin William’s STIR magazine, which features articles on using color to create specific environments, and not to promote the brand. And Outbrain, a native advertising tech provider, creates a terrific e- newsletter that does a fantastic job of informing and entertaining readers of key marketing and general trends based on data it collects.

3. Experiment with the newest forms of content.

This may sound like an oxymoron but some of the new forms of content can deliver a healthy dose of nostalgia. Case in point: The visual web.

Services like Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat let you instantly simulate the effect of film with nostalgically named filters. And since we process visuals much faster than text, images are an excellent medium to communicate value.

And let’s face it; visual feeds are the current and the future of e-commerce discovery. It’s how we’re all attracted to new products. As a marketer, you can leverage this new form of content to promote your brand without pushing it down the consumer’s throat.

Little Printer is a great combination of digital and nostalgia that we’re fond of here at Chango. Users control it with a phone or tablet, but its purpose is to print out something that you’d normally read on mobile, and turn it into a nice and nostalgic print form.

Getting nostalgia right takes a bit of effort, and in some cases, a lot of expense, but it’s well worth the effort. Consumers are savvier, and they have lots of ways to shut off advertising. More than ever, marketing must be highly engaging and creative, otherwise it’s lost in the din.

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