The Power of Nostalgia

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Published on Sept. 15, 2017 at 1:15 p.m.
by Elizabeth Selmarten.

It’s quite apparent that most of the younger generation today finds a nostalgic connection toward the 2000s, 1990s and 1980s. From Harry Potter milestones to Buzzfeed Rewind Quizzes to the return of mom jeans and chokers, the past couple years have felt like a continuous stream of “throwback Thursdays” to a time when things seemed simpler and one’s biggest worries included whether or not Rachel and Ross were really on a break and if Jack really could have fit on that door.

Hogwarts from the Harry Potter franchise

However, nostalgia is more than just a recent trend for millennials…

“I don’t think it’s a trend necessarily unique to today,” said Bill Todd, president of o2ideas. “I think throughout time, human beings have wanted to look back wistfully on the days of their youth.”

It’s also a phenomenon that can be a powerful way for PR practitioners to connect to their clients’ publics. Things and ideas that are nostalgic to people are familiar and comfortable to them, leaving them more accepting to the message.

“Clearly nostalgic iconography plays a part in people’s feelings toward a brand, toward a moment in their lives,” Todd said. “Nostalgia can trigger an emotional bond with an earlier point in your life.”

Sandra Ogden, director of creative services at Ivie & Associates, echoed what Todd said.

“People are always looking to the things that make them look good or remind them of a positive time or experience in their lives,” Ogden said. “I think you can do that through many ways obviously: the TBTs [throwback Thursdays], the throwback pictures you can post on Facebook or music that takes you there when you hear a song.”

Nostalgia marketing is not solely limited to the social media and the entertainment and fashion industries. Any smart brand can utilize and draw from the phenomenon, even if that brand’s product is a grape soda.

The Birmingham-based o2ideas showed how going back to retro-roots can be widely successful with its Grapico 100th anniversary campaign for Buffalo Rock Company. The campaign, which won a Birmingham Addys Best of Show award in 2017 and delivered a surge in sales. The campaign centered itself around “the authenticity of the brand and the nostalgia of Grapico drinkers across the South,” according to the PR agency.

“O2 worked with Buffalo Rock to uncover the story of Grapico’s historic past in Alabama and the South,” Todd said. “Our approach when redesigning Grapico’s labels was to give it that retro look and even give it an older look to conjure up images of a time when sweet things in life were appreciated much more.”

However, Ogden warns you must be wary of negative nostalgia, referencing when Facebook has done a time hop back to a negative post, such as a death of a dog or family member.

“Make sure whatever you do is a positive and really think through it. Ask people who are older than you,” Ogden said. “If you can, test the ideas out to your demographic or your target audience to see. What you think might be a great thing, isn’t as great as you think. They might not see it in the same way.”

Nostalgia, if done right, can be a very useful tool used to connect with a client’s publics. It’s also something that can be used over and over again but without being repetitive, as people’s versions of nostalgia vary by person as well as over time.

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