Can a sense of nostalgia drive consumer interest, purchase and ultimately loyalty? One trip through a shopping mall shows that many brands believe (or hope) it does.
A smaller version of the original Nintendo has returned. Sega Genesis is back in limited production. Pokemon Go provided a blast from the past for kids of the 1990s. The new “Trolls” and “Ghostbusters” movies resurrected classic ‘80s phenomena. Vinyl records and the Nike Cortez are selling again. All provide evidence that we Americans love a good throwback.
Studies measuring personal nostalgia evoked by advertising support that sentiment. The Journal of Advertising Research surveyed four studies that demonstrated that nostalgia elicited by advertising was so engaging that it influenced bonding with a brand and brand choice.
So, as long as there’s money to be made, brands will continue to try to tap into consumers’ emotions, offering up the trendiest versions of the oldest everything.
The brands with the best chance of sustaining long-term interest and loyalty with this nostalgia-centric approach are the ones that go beyond gimmicks to offer products – and market those products – in ways that meet changing consumer expectations and deliver a modern experience. Brands need to be authentic and speak consumers’ language. Millennials love nostalgia as much as anyone else, but younger consumers want to engage, offer input and enjoy a shared, connected community. A cool brand that celebrates old and new and involves people of all ages has a much better chance of creating enduring value. One brand that gets it is Nintendo. From a product standpoint, its new NES Classic Edition is smaller, has games built in and features an updated version of the old controller. Players can experience games in the original 4:3 resolution or in a mode that looks like an old arcade screen.
In re-launching its classic NES Classic Edition, the brand leveraged both on- and off-line tactics. Nintendo hosted a “totally tubular 80s-themed launch event” at the Nintendo store in Rockefeller Plaza. The “Power Line,” Nintendo’s customer service system, offered recorded tips and behind-the-scenes stories from original Game Play Counselors. Younger gamers could share memories and photos of old NES consoles using the #NESterday hashtag.
The waning drive-in movie theater industry is an example of this attempt to connect young and old gone awry. I recently attended a local drive-in (for the first time) to see for myself what has been glamorized by old movies and old parents as the epitome of cool. While the idea of the drive-in sounded awesome, in the end, the experience just didn’t pop the corn. The neon Coke signs and Elvis tunes were terrific, but once the show began, it was just a mediocre movie in an uncomfortable setting with a distorted picture, muffled sound and a million missed opportunities to engage the audience, before, during and after the show.
At the end of the day, nostalgia may get a customer in the door, and it may even seal the deal on a sale. But to create long-term loyalty and appeal to a wider (read: younger) audience, marketers need a more contemporary, all-inclusive approach to meet today’s changing consumer expectations.