OPINION: What do Kate Moss, Nokia phones and LadyBird books have in common?
Answer: Nostalgia or, more precisely, nostalgia marketing.
Nearly 25 years after she first showed up as the fresh face of Adidas Gazelle trainers, Kate was brought back for the relaunch in 2016.
Nokia recently relaunched its 1990s icon phone the 3310, mostly because they are indestructible and the batteries last forever.
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But there’s also a retro-thing going on amongst geeks who like to shun Apple in favour of old-school flip-tops and Nokias.
Meanwhile, LadyBird books – those classics from our school libraries – have been recast in Lady Bird Books for Grown Ups series, which is now worth around £30 million (NZ$57.4m) in sales.
So what is it about nostalgia that makes it such a successful marketing tool?
Nostalgia marketing, as someone said, is the advertising equivalent of comfort food.
It takes us back to happier, simpler times in our lives – using actors and musicians from films and TV shows we loved as teens, games and books we loved as children and food we saved our pocket money for.
From a marketing perspective, exploiting nostalgia makes a lot of sense. If your content can evoke feelings of nostalgia, it will also make people feel good.
According to one clinical study, nostalgia really does affect how people feel about spending money. It loosens people’s wallets and makes them happy to spend.
And when it comes to growing a loyal following of customers who love your business, creating content that makes them feel good seems like a winning strategy.
The other great thing about nostalgia is that it starts young; so it’s a rich mine for marketers to tap into.
Apparently Millennials (broadly speaking those born between the early 1980s and mid 1990s, who are between 30 and 40 today) are a particularly rich target for this kind of marketing.
Seems you are never too young to start looking back.
Last year’s phenomenon, Pokémon GO, was an excellent example of nostalgia marketing done well.
It took millennials back but coupled nostalgia with modern relevance and new technology.
Nostalgic trends already appear regularly in social networks.
Instagram’s various filters which can make any photo look like it was taken decades ago; Facebook’s “Memories”, which shows us what we shared on this day two, five or seven years ago; and hashtags like #throwbackthursday or #flashbackfriday.
New Zealand has had its own attempts at nostalgia marketing with varying degrees of success.
We’ve seen the relaunch of Foxton Fizz, which took the turn of the century soft drink company from the verge of going under to being a staple in hipster bars and cafes across New Zealand.
McDonalds reintroduced the Georgie Pie brand in 2013 after frequent calls for its return and it seems to be doing okay.
Whittaker’s chocolate had a go at nostalgia marketing when it invested heavily in the launch of its K-Bar chocolate.
Last year, two dairy farmers in Nelson twigged onto the fact that people’s nostalgia for milk in glass bottles – and their willingness to pay more for the pleasure – was a market niche they could exploit.
Aunty Jean’s Dairy is now supplying milk in the top of the South Island and a few select Auckland stores, with plans to go national this year.
So, what next for New Zealand and nostalgia marketing? Will we see Spark resurrecting Spot the Telecom dog?
Could the 1999 “Bugger” Hilux ad – voted second best-ever TV ad last year after NZTA’s “Ghost Chips” – stage a comeback?
My guess is that we will see more of the Aunty Jean’s Dairy-style marketing, where nostalgia, quality and premium prices are all neatly packaged up to appeal to our softer sides.
Sue Allen has worked in journalism, communications, marketing and brand management for 15 years in the United Kingdom and New Zealand.