Why Nostalgia is Useful in Marketing

As Miley Cyrus displayed a new purpose for foam fingers, I, along with masses of millennials, had only turned on the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) for one reason: *NSYNC.

Yep, rumor had it that the boy band — who spawned the Jimmy Fallon proclaimed, “President of Pop,” Justin Timberlake — would reunite on the VMA stage. As *NSYNC was/is/will always be an embodiment of the happiest days of my tween years, I had to see it, and you can bet MTV knew this.

Throughout history, nostalgia has been a surefire way for brands to garner attention and gain new fans while reinvigorating old ones. But why do we always long for “the good ol’ days”? What is it about nostalgia that successful marketing campaigns have tapped into?

PlayStation: Why We’ve Played Since 1995

One clear definition of nostalgia is “a yearning for the return of past circumstances, events, etc.” Sony used this feeling in their biggest marketing campaign to date: the release of PlayStation 4.


The gaming giant utilized Twitter and YouTube to celebrate 19 years of PlayStation’s relevancy in the gaming world. On Twitter, fans tweeted their craziest, most fun, most warming, most memorable experience using the hashtag #playstationmemory. Some of the tweets that stuck in my mind mentioned Crash Bandicoot, Tomb Raider, and Parappa the Rapper.

On YouTube, Sony’s promo video “Players Since 1995” (hashtag #4ThePlayers) is a fun timeline of how much has changed with PlayStation since its birth. From the different versions of the console, the many games in their catalog, all the cheats (back, back, X anyone?), PlayStation is not only a part of our present, they shaped a huge part of our past.

Sony’s approach to nostalgia encompassed one idea: we (game console and the gamer) are all growing and changing, but there’s a reason we’ve all been gamers since 1995, and PlayStation will always remind us why.

Disney Promotes Consistency

There were some concerns from Star Wars fans when Disney purchased Lucas Films in 2012, the main one being how Disney would handle the franchise.

Engaging the Base

Sure up the base and the rest will follow, at least that’s what politics tells us. Disney wanted core Star Wars fans to remember why they fell in love with the films in the first place and to reassure them that the same quality will be in the next installments. Marketing efforts included:

  • Bringing back Lawrence Kasdan – “No, I am your father.” Lawrence Kasdan wrote one of the most iconic lines in pop culture history and now will be involved in co-writing Episode VII.
  • Adding secrecy around casting – Will the original cast please stand up? Maybe they will, maybe they won’t, but either way, Disney is keeping the original cast quiet about their possible return for the new film.
  • Re-releasing the original movie trailers from the first trilogy – They may not be the best quality, but the trailers remind fans what is great about Star Wars and just how much has changed in the world of film making.

By incorporating nostalgia into your digital and traditional marketing strategies, brands are able to re-engage old fans while reassuring them that the quality of the product will never change. Additionally, engagement and consistency are qualities that draw interest and attract new fans.

What are your thoughts about the use of nostalgia in marketing? How could you utilize it to liven up your brand?

Photo credit: aLPHa_Leak on stock.xchng

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