Back to the Past
Pokemon Go, Stranger Things, Ghostbusters: pop culture’s latest offerings share a similar recipe: reviving old favorites and delivering them in a contemporary format.
Because nostalgia functions as a form of time travel, our fondness for it is akin to wanderlust. By breathing life into trends of decades past, we are immersed into a time that already exists somewhere in our memory (think Star Wars or Star Trek). On the other hand, we can also be transported into a time that’s completely different from ours while being presented with issues that are familiar and relatable. Mad Men, for example, although set in the 50s, allows us to project contemporary issues into the narrative and learn more about ourselves through their stories.
Leveraging the power of nostalgia can drive consumption by evoking feelings of longing for simpler times: think Polaroid cameras, hand-crafted coffee, turntables — objects from the hipster trend. It can also mean tapping into a particular generation by bringing back the old and dressing it up to fit our times. Perhaps creating the best kind of cultural reboot means striking a balance between nostalgia and novelty. It’s seeing our graduation photos (braces and all) versus watching a 2000s movie reimagined in 8-bit.
Case Study: Stranger Things
Targeting multiple generational groups at the same time is a great strategy when it comes to using nostalgia to sell: which is what Stranger Things does so well. People who grew up in the 90s can relate to the references in Stranger Things, but you don’t need to like Steven Spielberg, read Stephen King or play Dungeons and Dragons to enjoy the show.
The lesson from Stranger Things? Using a modern channel to deliver something decidedly vintage. The TV show was delivered in 8 episodes — appealing to today’s binge-watching and ad-blocking culture. It reinvents classics and doesn’t just rip them off.
Case Study: Satchmi
You’d think that in the age of iTunes store downloads and Spotify, vinyls and turntables won’t find a market. But Satchmi has managed to bring back the lost cool of records: They have a Google Form for vinyl requests, an online shop, and a blog where they post updates on their events.
Unlike places like AstroPlus and OdysseyNext, Satchmi is more than just a store that sells records or accessories: they’ve managed to build a culture around their brand by hosting events, brewing workshops, and even expanding into a cafe.
Case Study: Pokemon Go
Apart from getting indoorsy people out of their houses and tapping into people who grew up with Pokemon, the app uses GPS to give its users a Easter-egg hunting experience that blurs the line between the virtual and the “real,” rewarding the brain in a way that Candy Crush or Angry Birds just can’t. Combine nostalgia, an incentive to burn calories, and opportunities to socialize, and a viral game is born.
To video games
To TV Shows
It looks like nostalgia is a marketing tactic companies will always turn to. Who knows what else will be making a comeback to give us a sense of familiarity in the midst of all these technologies people are coming up with?
In about thirty or forty years, our kids will most probably be laughing at the clothes we’re wearing now. Someone born in the late 90s will be one of the executives calling the shots behind movies and TV shows, and maybe they’ll portay our current habits — taking pictures of absolutely everything, ranting on Facebook, resetting the modem — and they will all seem outdated.
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