Why nostalgia works well in marketing and advertising campaigns

Nostalgia is a sentimentality for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

I cannot wait until The Lion King is out this summer, certainly if it’s as good as The Jungle Book remake in 2016. As kids we all grew up watching Disney classics and even after all these years, you never forget the catchy songs and characters which made them great.

Over the past few years there has been plenty of ‘live’ remakes. We’ve had Aladdin, Dumbo, Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. Mulan has also been written and due for release in 2020. I’m sure even more will follow. We seem to love connecting to our past.

It’s not just Disney films pulling at our nostalgic heart strings, we see nostalgia being used in marketing, advertising and design as a very powerful tool.

Last year Google used Macually Culkin to advertise its virtual assistant for when you’re ‘Home Alone’. MoneySuperMarket advertising turned to He-Man and Skeletor dancing to Fame. The Halifax bank has recently turned to The Wizard of Oz as well as Top Cat and Thunderbirds in previous campaigns.

We love seeing our old friends and favourite cartoons and characters on our screens again. I thought He-Man was amazing as a kid and I never thought I’d see a grown man dressed as Skeletor dancing on the high street to Fame in an advert! It’s brilliant, fun and fresh and it temporarily takes me back to simpler days.

We currently live in very uncertain times. Who will be the next prime minister? What will happen after Brexit? What impact will climate change have to future generations? What impact will the rising population have on our planet? The list goes on. Nostalgia enables us to feel safe, remembering happy times and places that made us feel contented. That deep connection to a product, service, film, book, whatever the media, makes naturally want more. There’s real trust between end product and ourselves. Why wouldn’t anybody want to look back and remember happy times?

And it’s a perfect time to grab us millennials. Lots of us have got young kids, we’re reading them the same books we grew up on, watching the same films we grew up with. We want our kids to enjoy the same TV programmes and experiences that we had as kids. We recently introduced our kids to the cartoon Godzilla from the late 1970s!

Another reason we’re reliving our past is it’s actually quite easy to watch old tv shows and access childhood memories now. Previous generations couldn’t go on YouTube and watch a video of their favourite childhood programmes. Nostalgia now doesn’t rely on an individual or specific memory anymore. With the rise of social media and the digital world, we all have easy access to a very shareable past in just a few clicks. A friend of mine has recently been playing James Pond online, a game for the Amiga back in 1991!

Will there be a backlash to all the remakes and old favourites coming out though? Sometimes there can be too much nostalgia. Speak to an avid Star Wars fan. That’s the challenge of creatives though. Writers, designers and advertisers know nostalgia is a powerful tool if executed right. Agencies and production companies need to keep being creative and give us something fresh. By all means take us back to happier times but we’ve been there already, give us something new with our old favourites. Which is kind of why I love Skeletor dancing to Fame! Old character, new idea. It works.

Well, I’m looking forward to seeing the new ‘live’ version of The Lion King. And yes, it will take me back to happier times. Of course, not all remakes work, I wouldn’t recommend anybody watching the new version of Magnum P.I… only Tom Selleck can wear a Hawaiian shirt and look that cool.