Published: Oct 03, 2022 | Updated at: Oct 03, 2022


The sensation of nostalgia is about far more than warm, fuzzy feelings that evoke your childhood. Science suggests that nostalgia affects your power of decision-making. The human brain can't resist any opportunity to return to a joyful, familiar place, and when something sparks that desire, your wallet often follows.

That's why nostalgic marketing is effective, regardless of the product or the market. Subconsciously, every consumer wants to return to simple delights and happier times. When you look for nostalgia in contemporary marketing strategies, you start seeing it everywhere. 

We've compiled five memorable examples of times when companies tried and succeeded at marketing with nostalgia. All these marketing tactics are reproducible, and you can incorporate them into your future outreach strategies. 

Read on to explore nostalgia in the marketing sphere and then put it to work to promote your product. 

Nostalgia Definition

Before we explore examples, let's get into the nostalgia definition. In essence, nostalgia is a sentimental yearning for happiness related to an experience, person, location, or object from the past. 

One might feel nostalgic for a childhood toy, a favorite television show or franchise, or a childhood home. Sensory stimuli can also cause a nostalgia effect. An ice cream flavor might make you nostalgic for summer, and a scent can make you nostalgic for someone you miss. 

Businesses can capitalize on the nostalgia meaning and increase sales by associating a nostalgic property with their product. We've included five examples below. 

1. Adobe Embraced "The Joy of Painting"

In 2016, there was a sudden nostalgic revival: Netflix had put the popular Bob Ross program "The Joy of Painting" on their platform. Many elder Millenials and Gen Xers remembered watching the program on cable as children. Ross began appearing in memes and clips across social media, from Twitter to Facebook.

Adobe took advantage of this resurgence to co-opt his image for their Adobe Photoshop Sketch campaign. They hired an actor to portray Ross, even consulting with the Bob Ross estate to get the details perfect. The actor appeared in several Photoshop video tutorials for the iPad Pro. 

Consumers enjoyed these tutorials because it was as close as they could get to consuming new content featuring their childhood idol. 

2. Dannon Moved into the Full House

Between 2016 and 2020, every Netflix fan was watching one fabulous reboot: Fuller House, the sequel to nostalgic favorite Full House. The streaming program had 14.4 million viewers during its first month on the platform. Before that, however, Dannon used that nostalgia power in a campaign for Oikos yogurt. 

John Stamos, Bob Saget, and Dave Coulier reunited for this silly spot, evocative of the spirit of the original TV sitcom. The combination of familiar voices from syndicated television drew viewers' attention. Oikos yogurt quickly became a household name. 

3. Microsoft Threw a 90s Party

If you were a child or young adult in the 90s, all you need to do is close your eyes, and you can imagine dozens upon dozens of culturally significant images from that dynamic decade. Microsoft was banking on this when they produced their 2013 "Child of the 90s" television spot. The brand took advantage of the millennial's passion for this familiar aesthetic and earned a Webby Award nomination. 

The commercial reminds the viewer that "we met" the internet explorer browser "in the 90s." Imagery included leopard-print snap bracelets, Lisa Frank stationery, and the beloved video game Oregon Trail. These associations were almost enough to make Gen Y pine for Internet Explorer, which has since gone defunct

4. Apple Took a Bite Out of a Cookie

Sesame Street has been around since 1969, so multiple generations get nostalgic about their favorite denizens of the titular street. One of Sesame Street's first residents was the lovable blue Cookie Monster. Apple featured the cookie-loving muppet in their 2014 iPhone 6 ad. 

In the ad, Cookie gets help from virtual assistant Siri while he whips up a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies. Fans were so hungry for more of their favorite monster that Apple also released a series of "Bloopers" from filming. The commercial was a hit among children and children at heart.  

5. McDonald's Rewound Old Home Movies

There is something nostalgic about the sight of a McDonald's happy meal, and many children have grown up viewing those iconic french fries as a special treat. McDonald's capitalized on nostalgia for its own brand when it produced a commercial highlighting its menu changes in 2016. That was the year McDonald's officially removed all antibiotics from their chicken nuggets, one year ahead of their scheduled commitment. 

The ad features a split screen. On the left, we see a sepia-toned home video featuring a little boy growing up in the 70s. On the right, we see a pigtailed redhead growing up today.

Throughout the ad, the little boy passes items from his side to the girl's side, and they surprise and amaze her. In a tear-jerking moment, the little boy slides across himself and grows into her father. They both enjoy a happy meal while the audience sniffles and, inevitably, give in to their craving for a cheeseburger. 

Using Nostalgia Meaning in Marketing

Every person longs to return to a moment from their past. Embrace the power of nostalgia by drawing leads in with positive associations and familiarity. Your ad may become part of the cultural memory, and there's no better clout than that!

If you need some project management support while designing your nostalgia campaign, give Halsell a try. It's the easiest way to manage your team, customer service, and deal flow. Sign up today to see how simple CRM and project management can be. 

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