By: Dr. David Bridwell, People Scientist
Nostalgia marketing can allow us to quickly and deeply connect with an audience. It often generates positive emotions and positive moods, which makes the audience more receptive to your message and more likely to remember your message.
That’s because when your messaging helps your audience revisit old memories, it opens up a rich infrastructure of processes in the brain that ties in the sensory experience and the psychological memories of what one was doing during that time period.
I’m sure a lot of you have experienced this yourself, where you look at an old photo and remember a lot of contextual things related to when the photo was taken. You remember the people in the photo, the place where you lived, the house where you lived, and so on. You can take your mind back to the richness of your experience at that place and time.
There are many ways that brands can incorporate nostalgia in their marketing. The Walmart Grocery Pick-Up advertisement provides one example—they engaged the generation that grew up in the 80’s by featuring vehicles from Ghostbusters, Scooby-Doo, and more.
Marketers can also invoke feelings of nostalgia related to their brand directly by bringing back old commercials, jingles, logos, or products.
Whether you end up using elements that are directly or indirectly related to your brand, marketers should consider the following when using nostalgia marketing:
It leads to positive moods and better memory. Nostalgia brings up positive feelings, meaning it can influence the emotional context of your advertisements. When people feel good, they recall things better and they are more aware of information. Studies have shown that a person’s memory for ads actually increases when they’re in a positive mood compared to a negative mood (for more see Sar et al 2010).
Nostalgia buffers against negative emotions. Nostalgia psychologically protects against existential threats and terror, so it can be particularly powerful among those who are faced with anxiety. Those dealing with uncertainty and fear or mortality actually feel better through nostalgia and are incentivized to seek it out.
Our desire for nostalgia peaks during life changes. Nostalgia can be particularly powerful among those who are going through major life changes like starting a new job, starting a new career, having a baby, or experiencing a crisis. These major life changes are often accompanied by uncertainty, and nostalgia helps buffer against the negative emotions surrounding uncertainty.
Nostalgia makes people more social. Nostalgia generally makes people more social and more likely to develop positive connections with others. But there is a segment of the population (about 20% of people) who are generally predisposed toward close intimate relationships with others (these folks have an avoidant attachment style). It turns out that nostalgia doesn’t have prosocial benefits among this group.
Overall, it’s important to recognize that nostalgia is a distinct emotion that can help you quickly and efficiently connect with an audience. It often generates positive emotions and positive moods, which makes the audience more receptive to your message and more likely to remember your message and your brand.