Happy 2018! A new year and a fresh start. Star Wars and Jumanji are at the top of the box office, new Will and Grace episodes are on NBC and a Roseanne reboot is coming soon. There’s even (lukewarm) buzz about a possible return of the 90s sitcom Mad About You.

Wait, did we say 2018?

Blasts from the 70s, 80s and 90s are back, bringing comfortably filtered memories of bygone days in the glow of today’s digital screens.

Now that Luke Skywalker is older than the original Star Wars’ Obi-Wan Kenobi, it’s time to take a new look at the familiar. Here’s how to use nostalgia marketing to strike an emotional connection with your audiences.

Why we love nostalgia

Call it nostalgia, throwback, vintage or retro, the power of the past is a powerful marketing tool.

A study from the Journal of Consumer Research found when someone thinks about the past and feels nostalgic, they are more likely to spend money or donate to a cause. They’re even willing to pay more for a set of products than consumers who are thinking about the present or future.

happy_80sThrough our selective memories, nostalgia tends to bring happy recollections along with psychological benefits that can boost your mood and self-esteem, increase your feeling of social connectedness and give you a more positive feeling about the future.

Nostalgia marketing resurfaces our emotions in a way that influences our purchase decisions. Neuro-imaging studies found when consumers evaluate a brand, they rely more on emotion than on facts. Nostalgia taps into emotions already felt in the past, which is easier than creating new emotional connections to a brand.

Those emotional memories are comforting because you’ve already lived through them, compared to the unknown the future holds.

Gregory Carpenter, James Farley/Booz Allen Hamilton Professor of Marketing Strategy and Faculty Director of the Kellogg Markets and Customers Initiative, says:

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.”

For marketers, nostalgia requires a careful balance of fresh, new ideas and sepia-colored memories of the reassuringly familiar.

Give your events an emotional blast from the past

Events offer an ideal opportunity to create an engaging experience for your customers, partners and other stakeholders.

EventMB Deputy Editor Becki Cross, who cites 14 easy ways to incorporate nostalgia into your events, says the power of nostalgia cannot be denied:

For instance, nostalgia can create a psychological state, offer a shared and immersive experience, evoke strong passion and enthusiasm from the individual, enable co-creation of an event and powerful interaction with other like-minded attendees.”

tenable_80s arcade
Use nostalgia as part of an overarching event theme, a team-building activity, event videos, music, social posts, swag giveaways or a specific exhibit.

When Tenable Network Security wanted a buzz-worthy trade show booth for the RSA Conference, Lightspeed Marketing partnered with developers and engineers at San Francisco-based Britelite to deliver Tenable Arcade, an immersive customer experience with an 80s arcade theme. Gamers played onsite or online, to get on the right path to cybersecurity and stop the bad guys from getting in.

Add a touch or two of nostalgia to the event experience and you can strike an emotional connection, increase engagement and even encourage more generous donations at fundraising events.

Go retro with your design

polaroid_80sThe power of visual design includes the ability to trigger an emotional response. Combine that with elements of nostalgia and you can create stronger emotional connections with your audience.

Retro design examples are all around us. Have a 50s flashback while you drink from an iconic Coca-Cola glass bottle. Go old school, sort of, with an instant digital camera that gives you Polaroid-style prints. Or unleash your gamer skills with Nintendo’s miniaturized Super NES Classic Edition.

Use nostalgia in design with retro event posters or infographics, and incorporate images from the past in PowerPoint presentations. Express your inner 80s kid with neon typography and glow effects (Stranger Things binge-watch, anyone?).

The trick is to blend vintage influences with contemporary elements to feel both current and comfortable.

Create and promote content with a vintage vibe

Cranking out content requires a steady stream of ideas. If you’ve done all the 2018 predictions you and your readers can stand, consider a look back.

A nostalgic reference in your content helps surface positive emotions, and your brand can bask in the glow of those feelings by association.

Or jump all in, as Buzzfeed has done with BuzzFeed Rewind, “Your digital time machine.” The entire section revels in yesteryear with retro articles, listicles and quizzes.

HubSpot says leveraging nostalgia makes a whole lot of sense:

If your content can get people feeling nostalgic, it will also get them feeling good by extension. And 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.”

Nostalgic content that emotionally connects earns social shares. Make the most of this on social media by using nostalgic images, quizzes and hashtags that invite your readers to go on a walk down memory lane with you. #WaybackWednesday #ThrowbackThursday #FlashbackFriday

Use nostalgia carefully so you don’t get lost in the past

Navigating the past can be almost as challenging as predicting the future. Don’t force-fit a nostalgia theme or element in your marketing if it doesn’t feel right or fit with your brand or audience.
Even when your brand is ready for retro, using nostalgia across generations can be tricky. What brings a warm fuzzy to a Boomer might bring eye-rolls from a Millennial. Know your audience and identify what had a cultural impact during their formative years.

In today’s digital age of innovation, pure nostalgia can risk positioning your brand as out of step. The secret is to revisit the familiar with a new take on it.

Old Spice refreshed its brand with their “Smell Like a Man, Man” campaign. KFC made Colonel Sanders relevant to new generations by using a series of comedic actors in the white suit. Extra-crispy George Hamilton promoting the chain’s Extra Crispy chicken? Genius.

Shutterstock advises this mix of old and new:

Vintage now is about mixing different eras and styles to create a mood of authentic-feeling nostalgia. …You can embrace the stylistic traits of any era as long as you do it with a hefty dose of modernity.”

Bottom line: By making nostalgia both fun and fresh, you can span generations and show your brand has a heart. Emotionally connect with your audiences by interpreting the past in a way that seems shiny and new in a warm, comforting way.

Wondering whether to bring a vintage vibe to your modern marketing? Our award-winning creativity can help create the just-right experience for your customers. Contact us at [email protected].