How Brands Are Marketing Nostalgia For Throwback Thursday

How Brands Are Marketing Nostalgia For Throwback Thursday

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Marketing Throwback Thursday well can let marketers hit two, or even three, birds with one stone.


Growing up means many things: getting a job, buying your own groceries and developing a certain degree of nostalgia for years gone by.

As millennials become increasingly important as customers, brands have started heaping on the nostalgia to woo them over. It seems as though every day a new commercial attempts to speak to “children of the ’90s,” bringing back long-discontinued products and engaging in Throwback Thursday marketing campaigns.

From a business perspective, it makes sense. A recent study led by Jannine LaSaleta, a nostalgia specialist who teaches marketing at Grenoble Ecole de Management in France, revealed that the feelings of social connectedness that arise from nostalgia make people value money less, which ultimately leads them to spend more freely.

“It’s not a secret that nostalgia is used for marketing,” says LaSaleta. “It’s not a secret it’s successful.”

However, the current wave of back-to-the-future marketing has a few key differences that set it apart from those that came before. Here are three:

1. ’90s references are where it’s at.

How long does it take for something to go from dated to nostalgia-worthy? “I think 20 years is probably a good candidate,” says Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business professor Marlene Morris Towns. “But you probably could push it a little bit.”

Twenty years back is the ’90s – and it shows. Coca-Cola reintroduced ’90s citrus soda favorite Surge in September after 12 years off the market. Last year, when Calvin Klein reissued items from the collection that reissued items from 1994, five of the 12 styles sold out in roughly two months. Former PBS star LeVar Burton raised $1 million on Kickstarter in a matter of hours last May to bring back the kids’ television, Reading Rainbow.

Ultimately, a huge chunk of recent nostalgia-bait in advertising attempts to capitalize on customers’ nostalgia for the ’90s, as opposed to earlier decades. That’s because by appealing to the most recent era of nostalgia, advertisers can cater to a wider audience.

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