Why Nostalgia Marketing Works Every Time

In a world that seems to be evolving at break-neck speed, immersing yourself in nostalgia is like wrapping yourself in a comfortable blanket of “the good ol’ days” when things were so much simpler. 

Studies suggest that nostalgia inspires consumers to spend their money because it promises an immediate return in the form of happy memories and comfort. This is why nostalgia marketing campaigns have grown increasingly popular in recent years, as brands begin to discover the value of connecting with their customers on a more in-depth, emotional level.

Politicians have also embraced this technique. Trump promised to “make America great again”, effectively implying a return to how things used to be. In the UK, the Brexit campaigners touted a way back to how the country was before the European Union ever existed.

In any case, the public eats it up. It seems that a growing group of consumers are looking backwards and wishing things were the way they used to be.

And when it comes to marketing, that offers up a ripe opportunity.

The Power Of Emotion

Any marketer is well aware of how powerful an effect emotion can have on a campaign.

Make your audience happy, or make them sad. Pull on their heartstrings, or scare them to death. It doesn’t matter what they feel, only that they do.

Neuro-imaging studies have found that when consumers evaluate a brand, they rely more on emotion than on information.

As much as we like to think we’re rational machines, the truth is that we’re wildly irrational when it comes to making decisions. That includes purchase decisions.

This means that rather than consider the facts, we focus more on how the product makes us feel.

Facts play a part, and you need to ensure you inform your audience. If you want to seal the deal, however, you need to engage them on an emotional level.

And it just so happens that nostalgia is an extremely powerful way of doing exactly that.

Now, let me take you back. Remember when you were a child? Everything was new. Each day brought with it a new experience or situation for you to deal with. New experiences catch us off-guard, and when we’re young we’re often overwhelmed with emotions that we’ve never even felt before.

Over time, these raw emotions lessen in intensity and once we’re adults, we’re fully in control. That means it’s pretty hard for marketing to actually affect us emotionally.

Research tells us that nostalgia counteracts things like boredom. 

It also makes people more tolerant of outsiders, and more generous to strangers. In fact, nostalgia can literally make people feel warmer on a cold day. 

So in today’s highly competitive marketplace, nostalgia in advertising can allow both new, and old brands to connect with their audience on a powerful emotional level. Already, some of the most significant companies in the world have begun to show us just how useful this tactic can be.

Brands like Nike and Pepsi are already using retired designs and logos from the past, announcing them as “throwback” options or “retro” products. Shows and movies are tapping into old design features and strategies to tickle the nostalgic nerves of their watchers.

The question is, how can you create your own nostalgia marketing campaigns?

As always, the best way to learn is through examples. So I’ve handpicked some great campaigns that use nostalgia to great effect.

Spotify — Never Ending Story

Personally I don’t have a strong connection with The Neverending Story, but it’s obvious that a lot of people do. The use of the crappy CGI, the iconic soundtrack, and the use of that flying dragon-dog thing original voice actor all conspire to return viewers to their younger selves.

It’s as if we’re watching our beloved childhood movie all over again, and so we open up emotionally.

How do Spotify stop it from going too far and making it cheesy? They inject a little bit of humor into the ad.

Atreyu is now roughly 40 years old, sporting a large, bushy beard, and jokes:

“I can’t believe after all these years people are still listening to this song.”

It’s a little joke at the viewer’s suspense. Yeah, we’re taking you back to your childhood, but you regularly go back there anyway, so what’s the issue?

It’s a smart way of letting you in on the joke. The ad is no longer aimed at you, it’s for you.


After Netflix added the classic Bob Ross TV show to their lineup “The Joy of Painting”, the beloved 80s artist saw a huge resurgence in popularity during 2016. In a matter of weeks, Bob Ross became a meme, a source of cult appreciation, and a trending topic on Instagram. Technology brand Adobe took notice of this trend and decided to use it in their nostalgia marketing strategy, creating a series of tutorial videos to promote their “Adobe Photoshop Sketch” application for the iPad Pro.

The joy of sketching campaign was fantastic because it not only accessed the benefits of nostalgia in advertising, but also took advantage of the trends of the time. The company even worked alongside Bob Ross Inc to make sure every detail in the “Joy of Sketching” series was accurate.


Pepsi has also used nostalgia marketing strategy as a way of capturing their audience and strengthening emotional connections. Like Cola, Pepsi also brought back a discontinued drink from the 90s, “Crystal Pepsi”, as part of a limited-time run in 2016. The brand promoted their upcoming revival of the drink with a range of incredible advertising campaigns that built upon their existing nostalgic strategy.

One of the most appealing parts of the campaign was a game called the “Crystal Pepsi Trail”, which drew inspiration from the “Oregon Trail” game of the 70s, updated with a range of 90s call-backs like Tamagotchis and Furbies.


In an age that’s plagued by impersonal digital connections, nostalgia allows brands to leverage the optimistic feelings that come with a walk down memory lane. References to the past help to humanise brands, creating that sense of alignment that we all feel when we think about our past.

As always, successful campaigns – nostalgic or otherwise – will take work and authenticity. The key is figuring out how to identify the most important moments in your customer’s timeline and use those memories to enhance the identity of your company. Nostalgic marketing works best when companies understand their audience, keep their finger on the pulse of the existing culture, and listen to what people crave the most.


Hi, my name is Fernando, and I run this site.

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