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Growing up, the older I got the less cool everything I liked before became. With every new school year, the clothes I wore, the toys I played with and the music I liked suddenly became something to be hidden and never spoken of again.

This trend stayed with me for most of high school, but when it came time for university, something changed. I started getting invitations to throwback parties and people started wearing Pokémon T-shirts, albeit ironically. I found myself dancing to the same Spice Girls hit I would as a six year old, having turned my living room into the set of my very own music video. This time around, I was doing shots of Jagermeister and slurring the words to the song along with my friends—lyrics I will never forgot.

Nostalgia can feel like a drug. It’s that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you watch your favourite movie from childhood or visit the bar you frequented in university. In today’s chaotic world, it’s a form of escapism that is too sweet to resist. From Strangers Things and Pokémon Go to comebacks from old-school products like Crystal Pepsi, millennials are more hooked on nostalgia than ever before and brands big and small are using it to their advantage.

Stranger Things Cast

In Marketing 101, you probably learned that emotion drives a lot of consumer decisions. That’s nothing new. But tapping into fond memories can be invaluable to connecting with your consumers, especially millennials. Looking back on favourites from the past creates a sense of community. It allows brands to forge an emotional connection with a whole generation at once. It’s not niche marketing, if anything it’s the opposite. It’s bringing people together through a common need to reminisce and feel good about the good old days.

Throwing it back can do wonders for consumer openness, too. Those warm and fuzzies put a smile on people’s faces and when you can do that, they’re more likely to be open to your messaging. When people feel good about something or already have positive associations with it, they’re much more likely to act.

Music Video

Don’t think you can secure the licensing rights to that Aaron Carter song for your next video? No problem. Big brands aren’t the only ones who can use this throwback culture to their advantage. Nostalgia isn’t just about trends and cultural moments from the past. A lot of it is based off of strong personal memories and milestones that are pleasant to relive. Here are a few ways you can inject your video with nostalgia and get your viewers engaged.

Tell a Childhood Story

When the adult world of deadlines, bills and politics gets to be too much, childhood is a safe place to run back to for a moment. Positive childhood memories are the epicentre of nostalgia because they reflect a time without the same levels of stress and complexity modern adult life comes with. Take your viewers back to their childhood and give them a vacation from the present. Tell a personal anecdote about a memory or experience from when you were young. Pick something that a lot of people probably experienced, like your first vacation or first goal on a sports team.

In this brand film for Kiki’s Funnel Cakes, we use a childhood memory to frame the story of how the owner came to create the dessert shop. Kiki’s memory of “her first funnel cake” is something that resonates with a lot of kids. Going to a fair and eating until you were sick is something a lot of us remember. It’s a staple of summer life and a cultural symbol for the indulgence of having two months off from school. Those carefree summer days seem like nothing but bliss when you’re stuck on a crowded commuter train in the middle of winter. Watch this and try not to crave a funnel cake and maybe a vacation from responsibility, too.

Use a Milestone

Life-changing events are the ones we never forget and they are the same for a lot of people. A first kiss, first car, first job or first place of your own are moments most people have experienced. What’s a milestone in your customer’s life that your business can be apart of? If you’re a real estate agent, tell the story of someone buying their first house, a house that you found for them. A makeup brand? A prom night scenario is a great opportunity to take viewers back in time to a memorable moment where the perfect makeup played a make-or-break role in the evening.

Better yet, ask your audience. Do they have any fond memories associated with your brand or product? This can be a great conversation starter on your social channels, or could even turn into content of its own.

Pinball Machine

Play on the Senses

Science says that smell is the most closely linked to memory out of all the senses. If you’ve ever caught a whiff of the laundry detergent your mom used when you were a kid, you know that this is very true. But until smell-o-vision technology finally takes off, we’ve got to rely on other senses to provoke memory. Sight is an obvious one, but sound can actually be just, if not more, effective.

For me, the ding of a pinball machine reminds me of the arcade we’d visit while at our cottage every summer. For others, it might be the sound of a popcorn machine at the movie theatre, or the scratch of a record player. Think about an iconic sound associated with your brand, and try to incorporate that into a piece of video content.

Of course, it’s not advisable to create a marketing strategy based upon dwelling on the past. Nostalgia is the hook, but the sell needs to marry those memories with innovation. Take Pokémon Go for example. The company used the popular TV show and Gameboy game franchise to attract millennials who grew up with the brand, but brought it into the 21st century using augmented reality and social connectivity to create a game that  makes the world a digital playground. That’s smart nostalgia.

That same story about a family buying their first house could be improved upon if they were able to use an app to pre-select homes they were interested in viewing. This keeps the nostalgia of finding that perfect home, but negates any negative feelings associated with the process by providing an easier solution.

However you choose to incorporate nostalgia into your content, make sure it comes from the heart. You’re sharing something that is dear to you with your audience so authenticity is key. Remember to always consider whether or not something you find nostalgic will resonate with a larger audience.

And of course, don’t forget that #tbt hashtag every Thursday.


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Madelaine Sawyers

Author Madelaine Sawyers

More posts by Madelaine Sawyers

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