Nostalgia Marketing

By November 30, 2017 No Comments

Collector’s Weekly has a fascinating interview with author Sarah Archer on her book, Mid-Century Christmas: Holiday Fads, Fancies, and Fun from 1945 to 1970.

As a kid in the 1980s, the writer of the article, Lixa Hix, was blissfully ignorant of three basic facts about the Christmas traditions she held dear.

  1. Only about 10% were rooted in ancient history (the story of Jesus’ birth, the myth of a winter gift-giver leaving treats in footwear, and transposing the Nativity story on to pagan traditions such as putting up an evergreen tree.)
  2. Another 30% traced their origins back roughly 160 years. (specifically, tales of a heavyset man in a fur-trimmed suit making toys all year and then on Christmas Eve, traveling the globe on a reindeer-led sleigh, sliding down chimneys and putting presents into stockings.)
  3. Strangely enough, the overwhelming majority of Christmas traditions that brought the warm fuzzies dated directly back to post World War II America. From tingly Christmas ballads (Here’s looking at you, Bing!) to blow-molded, light up Santas and starbust ornaments, to competitive outdoor lighting displays and a tree surrounded by mountains of gifts wrapped in shiny metallic paper and bows, It seems our most cherished Christmas traditions were developed quite recently.

The interview is chock full of revelations (or ruinations if you prefer your traditions unsullied by facts) and is well worth your time, but it highlights an important element of design and marketing (especially around the holidays), which is the power of NOSTALGIA.

Psychology-based marketing expert, Nick Kolenda explains why nostalgia is so powerful in his Emotional Marketing super-article.

“Emotions focus on different time periods.

  • Past-oriented emotions (e.g. nostalgia) might be the most effective, as they trigger an unfulfilled need.

“…nostalgia represented in the advertisement is not attainable. When faced with such a situation, consumers may have a more favorable response to the product by transferring their unfulfilled desire to return to the past to a desire for the product.” (Muehling & Sprout, 2004, pp. 32)

  • Present-oriented emotions are useful when your product or service is calming.
  • Future-oriented emotions (such as hope) are exciting but increase self-control, which isn’t optimal for emotional marketing.

For examples of real-world, nostalgia marketing handled well, pay attention to brands such as Coca-Cola, Campbell’s Soup, Maxwell House Coffee, and the Volkswagon Beetle. Have you purposely (or unconsciously) incorporated nostalgia marketing into your client projects? Comment or drop us a link below.

About Robert W Williams

Robert is a Brand Alchemist specializing in archetypal analysis and strategy. When he's not blogging for Special Modern Design & Logos With Soul he works his magic at