The Irresistibility of Nostalgia Marketing

Ashton College
4 min readFeb 23, 2022
Photo by Cottonbro

From arcade games and roller skates to Ghost Busters and Stranger Things… nostalgia is making a comeback. Everywhere you look, digital marketers are using bubblegum pops of colours, childhood allusions and retro vibes to allude to a simpler time. Where did this phenomenon come from and how are digital marketing professionals using nostalgia to build a stronger connection with consumers?

Comfort and Familiarity

Whether we are talking about pop culture or digital marketing, nostalgia is all about creating an emotional connection with your audience. In an article about the definition and popularity of nostalgia marketing, content creator Angie Tran describes the phenomenon as an intentional “strategy of tapping into positive, familiar concepts from previous decades to build trust for new ideas and reinvigorate” contemporary digital marketing campaigns. Trust is paramount for anyone trying to market their product or service. And when your product is familiar or it evokes a sense of comfort and home, your audience is more likely to trust your brand and engage.

But why are we so drawn to childhood memories? With the pressures of adulthood, it makes sense that millennials in particular feel nostalgic for a time when our main concern was how to have fun, not how to pay our bills or keep up with the stress of our social media circles. Nostalgia marketing uses this feeling of familiarity and comfort to evoke brand loyalty and desire for the product or service being promoted.

Photo by Vitaliy Izonin

Are We Commodifying Nostalgia?

Some would say yes.

Spotify Advertising recently published a fascinating article exploring why nostalgia keeps coming back and why we cannot get enough of it. The most relevant part of the article is when they touch upon questions of authenticity and effective, intentional nostalgia marketing. The article suggests that “brands with a long history or that spark adventurous feelings of childhood or adolescence can play a prime role in this space” of nostalgia marketing. Younger brands should therefore be wary of jumping on the nostalgia train because it could come off as inauthentic or commodified and commercialized. If your company did not exist in the eighties, you probably should not be playing with eighties aesthetics in your digital marketing. When it comes to nostalgic colour pops and playful imagery, you also need to carefully consider how you will balance marketing innovation with brand consistency and familiarity.

Examples of Nostalgia in Digital Marketing

Whether you have a background in graphic design or you completed a series of digital marketing courses online, you are bound to encounter opportunities for nostalgia marketing with future clients or brands. Here are some examples of the most impressive uses of nostalgia marketing in recent years:

Photo by RODNAE Productions

Fostering Connections

Why is nostalgia so effective? In her Forbes magazine article about why nostalgia marketing works so well with millennials, digital marketing innovator Lauren Friedman argues that “building social connectedness through nostalgia is an easy way for companies to leverage the optimistic feelings that often accompany walks down memory lane.” She emphasizes how nostalgia is particularly effective at making connections “in an age of impersonal digital media” where so many of our interactions are faceless and digitized. Consumers long for connection, and digital marketers reflect that desire through their graphic design and copywriting choices. Remember that there are many different types of intelligence in the world of digital marketing, so be sure to draw upon your unique perspective when experimenting with touches of nostalgia. Hoping to develop your skills further? Consider applying for a digital marketing certificate program where you can learn about foundational topics such as strategic planning, marketing analytics and graphic design principles.

Written by CJ McGillivray