Even though the memories differ, nostalgia is a complicated emotion that every generation shares at some point. And that bittersweet feeling of happiness and longing is one that marketers have leveraged successfully throughout modern history.
Right now, it seems to be the millennials’ moment to yearn for the past. And fortunately for you, each of them has a miniature time capsule right in their front pocket.
Let’s take a look at what it takes to execute a successful nostalgia marketing strategy and how content creators can help your audience uncover memories they forgot they even had.
What is nostalgia marketing?
Nostalgia marketing is a common strategy that takes pop culture highlights from decades past and uses them to breathe new life into modern marketing campaigns and build trust with consumers. In other words, nostalgia marketing taps into your audience’s fond memories and transfers that sentiment over to your brand.
Why does nostalgia marketing work so well with millennials?
It evokes emotion.
Revisiting old television shows, commercials, styles, and other pop culture fads will always evoke emotion in sentimental audiences. And as the first generation to grow up with the internet, millennials have even more emotional triggers in the memory bank than most. That means brands have plenty to pull from when they want to run relatable content for a generation young enough to stay up on digital trends but old enough to remember “the good ol’ days.”
It makes people feel comfortable.
Nostalgia marketing pulls from a time when things were “simple.” By associating your brand with these memories, you can boost sentiment by tapping into a feeling of comfort that existed before mortgages, car payments, and the like made life more complicated.
Have you ever seen a meme that leads with, “Only 90s kids will remember?” Usually, whatever comes next is something that a lot of other kids remember too, but that doesn’t make the content any less relatable for the target audience. Regardless of which generation you’re trying to reach, zeroing in on a specific memory your fans share will help build an immediate connection within your community.
It makes for more authentic campaigns.
A successful nostalgia marketing campaign makes your audience feel like you are “one of them.” By pulling from shared experiences and finding common ground with your ideal consumer, you can create authentic campaigns that resonate on a deeper level.
How to craft a successful nostalgia marketing campaign
Know your audience.
The first step to any successful influencer marketing campaign is getting to know your audience. Since we’re pulling from the past on a nostalgia campaign, the most important demographic to know is the age of your ideal consumer. Once you have clear data on how old your audience is, you’ll be able to head back into the archives to inspire new content that evokes old emotions.
Find the right opportunities.
Nostalgia pangs can strike at any moment. But to maximize the effects, consider tying your content to an anniversary or historical milestone.
Giving your audience a specific date to pull nostalgia from will make the connection with your content that much stronger. From there, you can drive some extra engagement by asking your audience to share what life was like for them way back when.
Leverage brand (or industry) history.
If your brand has been around long enough for a young generation to grow into adulthood, you can dredge up old content they might remember from when they were kids. This could mean revisiting an old campaign, reconnecting with a former spokesperson, or any other memorable promotion.
For newer brands, leveraging content that shares the history of your industry could have a similar effect. Detailing evolution in your space can be a great way to illustrate how innovative technology plays a role in your product development while providing a gentle reminder of how things used to be when your audience was younger.
Pair the old with the new.
Juxtaposition is an effective strategy for demonstrating the growth of your brand or industry as a whole.
For example, a fitness brand might illustrate how retro apparel inspired its new performance line. On the other hand, a beauty brand might pull inspiration from old-school style trends to showcase the cyclical nature of fashion.
Encourage audience participation.
Don’t miss an opportunity to collect user-generated content (UGC) from your audience. If you’re sharing content from your company’s past, ask your audience to do the same. With the correct approach, you’ll accumulate a small archive of content you can use to showcase brand love throughout the years.
Examples of brands with effective nostalgia marketing campaigns
@mikaylanogueira What a THROWBACK 😳 @colourpopco Lizzie McGuire collection launches TODAY! #makeup #beauty #GodzillaVsKongRoar #RayBanElevatorDance ♬ original sound – Mikayla Nogueira
ColourPop recently tapped into early 2000s nostalgia with the release of its Lizzie McGuire makeup collection. With most Lizzie McGuire fans now in their late 20s or early 30s, the LA-based cosmetics brand leveraged creators on TikTok and Instagram to show that the new lip gloss, eye shadow, blush, and other featured products aren’t just for kids. As a result, the brand tapped into memories from must-see after-school TV and reminded them exactly “what dreams are made of.”
@backinmyday80 I still drink this and I’m 41 🤣🤣 #surge #90scommercial ♬ original sound – backinmyday80
Surge had a dedicated following of late-night gamers and middle-school edgelords in the 90s. And after a small (but highly vocal) group demanded a re-release on social media, the Coca-Cola brand delivered by bringing the iconic radioactive green beverage back for a victory lap.
Surge’s “resurgence” was a hit on social media. The release racked up thousands of pieces of UGC and generated plenty of earned media as millennials couldn’t wait to share their memories of the childhood guilty pleasure.
Goldfish + JNCO
@themontestwins #ad @goldfishsmiles & @JNCO brought 90’s style to a whole new level !! #ad ♬ Swear By It – Chris Alan Lee
Goldfish recently partnered with JNCO to help promote its new jalapeno popper-flavored cracker. With 90s style trends enjoying a second coming on TikTok, the brands leveraged young creators to showcase how the 90s fashion statement can complement a modern wardrobe. Goldfish warned fans that the jeans might sell out quickly but was sure to encourage them to keep an eye on their social accounts for other ways to skip the line and snag a pair.
Top 10 nostalgia accounts to send you back in time
Steve Birnbaum is a photographer who has spent years recreating music history by capturing stills of iconic photos in the exact location they were taken years prior. His content offers followers a nostalgic trip down memory lane and a humanizing look at some of the industry’s brightest stars.
@tara_town The sounds of our childhood @tara_town ♬ original sound – ✨The 90’s Girl✨
Tara Town—a self-proclaimed “90s nerd”— treats her fans to throwbacks from the 90s and early 2000s. From gel pens to jelly shoes, Tara’s account is a goldmine for childhood memories you didn’t even know you still had.
@patricksretroroom Did I forget any? #greenscreen #rad #retro #childhoodmemories #throwback #90s #90skid #80s #80skid #memories #nostalgia #nostalgic #patricksretroroom ♬ original sound – PatricksRetroRoom
Patrick invites his followers to join him in reliving all the childhood favorites of the 80s and 90s. His gaming, food, beverage, and toy throwbacks always hit close to home and make for a sentimental stroll down memory lane.
Laura is a writer, researcher, and cultural historian based in New York. Her IG account has garnered a cult-like following among fashion, media, and advertising enthusiasts. It provides an intimate look at the styles and trends of yesterday that shaped pop culture as we know it today.
@kenziefilmzzz we be ballin #christucker #movies #rushhour #1998 #webeballin #michaeljackson #icecube #shaq #jamescarter #jackiechan #lee #action #comedу #film #blackmen #blackculture #edits #DrPepperTuitionContest #viral #fypシ゚viral #foryou ♬ original sound –
Try your best to scroll through Kenzie’s content and not say to yourself, “Man, I haven’t thought about that movie in forever!” If you feel like revisiting or rediscovering some of the most iconic Hollywood moments from the 90s, this account is for you.
@iamthirtyaf Powerline makes me feel *whole* @hannahmhines #goofymovie #fyp #90s #strangerthings ♬ This_is_music – Lu 🖤
ThirtyAF is a certified #MillennialHeaven. Spend just a few minutes here, and you’ll feel like you’re back in front of your parents’ big boxy TV sipping Surge and eating Dunkaroos like old times.
You can get more 90s content from ThirtyAF on Instagram.
@thenostalchick How cute is this #tangled inspired fit ✨💟 #rapunzel #disney #disneystyle #lanterns #disneyparks #punzie #flinnryder #disneymovie #nostalgia #nostalgic ♬ original sound – thenostalchick
Elizabeth Jones, also known as The Nostalchick, is stuck in the 90s and loving it. Her “fashion made fun” content approach puts an old-school twist on modern style and is sure to speak to the soul of 90s kids everywhere.
Find more of Elizabeth’s fits on Instagram.
@90skid4lyfe Angelica cut real deep with this one… #FomotionalFinds #90skids #nostalgia #nickelodeon #rugrats ♬ Twenty One Pilots Hometown Slowed Sad Part – Half Angel Half Devil
This 90s guy’s goal is to take fellow millennials back to a simpler time. With reviews of classic games, toys, consoles, movies, and more, this account is one of the closest things you’ll get to a 90s time capsule.
@abrisworld Lord take me back 😂 #2000snostalgia #y2knostalgia #2000sthrowback #starterkit ♬ original sound – Abri
Abri is “existing off nostalgia and vibes.” Whether it’s a quick blast from the past or a good laugh, Abri’s content has what you need to keep the youth alive.
@the9tsbaby thirteen will forever be in my top 10 🙌 #fyp #foryou #viral #weekendvibes #nostalgia #90s #2000s #y2k #movietok #relatable ♬ Toxic Pony – ALTÉGO & Britney Spears & Ginuwine
The9tsbaby, who goes by Quinn Morgendorffer (a character from MTV’s Daria) online, is another creator ready to serve you a daily dose of 90s and Y2K nostalgia. Most of her content revolves around movies with iconic soundtracks that will make you want to dig out the old Discman and fire it up for old-time’s sake.
Key takeaway: Tap into the memory bank for influencer campaigns that resonate with your target audience.
Nostalgia marketing gives your brand a golden opportunity to open up the vault and pull from years’ worth of content to create memorable campaigns that resonate with your target audience. To take your strategy to the next level, pull in content creators who share the same fond memories and leverage the connection they have with their fans to help create your most engaging campaign to date.