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Nostalgia as a marketing tool

, December 20, 2023, 0 Comments

nostalgia-marketing-tool-marketexpress-inNostalgia as a marketing tool is frequently used as an emotional hook by marketers but its effectiveness varies within product categories and among individual and group dynamics. The recently launched ‘The Archies’ movie by Netflix used nostalgia extensively for its promotion. However, it did not prove to be a very effective tool with the intended audience.

Nostalgia as a tool is effective in inciting trial, but it does not always convert into long-term loyalty or engagement. As part of the promotional activities for the film, the cast went to schools, colleges in a bid to promote the series among a core ‘young audience’ with the campaign #back to school.

Nostalgia as a word was coined or invented a long time ago, over 300 years ago, and originally meant ‘homesickness.’ The semantics of nostalgia as a word has changed with it now being associated with the same emotion but broadened to any moment, place that was experienced in an earlier time. The emotion is described as longing for or missing aspects of a person’s personal lived past.

The intriguing part about nostalgia is that it can be a paradoxical experience. It could be a positive or a negative reference for individuals. Nostalgia can also trigger emotions of despair, longing and thus impact the individual in a negative way.

Nostalgia by motivating us to remember the past in our own life, helps to unite us with our authentic self and reminding us of who we have been and allowing us to compare that with who we feel we are today. In that context, the feelings evoked could be positive or negative largely dependent upon the present situation.

Most marketers use nostalgia to target cohorts that connect emotionally on a said experience/memory which unifies them. The challenge in using that approach for the movie was that the storyline was based on a social theme, focusing on the preservation of the garden. The relation and connection with Archies, the comic, was only in the personas of the characters and the name of the city it is based in. For an individual watching the said content the motivation to continue watching would significantly drop on the lack of the nostalgia being created in the story. The product must be perfected on delivering the experience as per the reference and then campaigns designed to promote that aspect. Cross referencing it without paying adequate attention to details in creating that emotion will not work

It could be simpler for product categories to use Nostalgia, like the famous ‘Campbell Soup’ whose entire brand proposition is based on nostalgia connected with homemade soups made by your mother. They have in the past used references to the mother’s role in the product and even used the tagline, ‘Just like Mother used to heat soup’ to promote the product. That evokes nostalgia for different demographic cohorts from newly married women to men who reminisce about their mother’s cooking.

A successful example of nostalgia being used as the key brand proposition by an Indian brand, is Paper boat. From Nimbu paani (lemonade) to aamras (mango juice) their beverages are about beverages made at home on certain occasions. They made the product the hero and focussed on the taste and then designed their marketing campaigns around nostalgia evoked on those occasions.

Nostalgia works differently at the individual level and at the cohort level. Right from the famous Bryan Adams song- ‘Summer of 69’ which can be regarded as the best example of nostalgia working at a cohort level in collectively evoking feelings of homesickness and of a shared past among a certain demographic. To the recent examples of products where it’s about the individual’s attitude. Brands and marketers should assess the attitude and understand the individual versus group dynamics before using it as a hook.
The product must be the Hero and do justice to the reference, most evident in sequels to popular films or when movies are made from books and you hear ‘the book was better than the film’.