While the trend of nostalgia has been gaining traction in American media over the last several years, its popularity increased during the pandemic. With extra time on our hands, many of us turned to familiar pastimes for a sure foundation, rediscovering the simple joys of our own “good ole days.”

The funny thing about nostalgia is that it breeds connection. When we get that warm and fuzzy feeling, and someone else gets it too, engagement happens – whether with something or someone. 

That’s where a savvy marketing and PR professional can take notes. Engagement is key for successful campaigns, creating a moment of ever-elusive consumer attention. Nostalgia can be an important tool in reaching that goal.

According to an eMarketer article by Jeremy Goldman, nostalgia saw “an uptick after 9/11, during the Great Recession and amid the pandemic as well, as evidenced by the recent Super Bowl. Frito-Lay invested in nostalgia by hiring Mindy Kaling, Jimmy Kimmel and Matthew McConaughey to reintroduce 1990s snack Doritos 3D Crunch.”

Specifically calling out the Cheetos spot that featured Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis of “That ‘70s Show” fame alongside singer Shaggy, Goldman describes how the remake of the latter’s 2000 hit “It Wasn’t Me” was an excellent example of nostalgia at play. 

Nostalgia is impacting more than just advertising. Organizations are making business decisions based on this trend. For example, Nintendo is relying on nostalgia and its back catalog of games to drive Switch Online subscriptions. What’s more, drive-in theaters are also making a comeback and baseball card sales have spiked to highs, all due to nostalgia. 

“That said, while nostalgia and cutting-edge technology may seem to be at odds, there’s no data that suggests a resurgence in one will lead to a decline in the other,” Goldman adds. 

So, to quote yet another nostalgic ad, “¿Por qué no los dos?”

Consider these opportunities to incorporate nostalgia into your everyday marketing and PR strategies while maintaining your cutting-edge, future-focused goals:

  1. Know your audience and learn what’s nostalgic for them. What styles did they wear? What songs did they listen to? Understand your audience’s definition of nostalgia.
  2. Connect the present with the past. Utilize messaging that leverages past trends or events to connect with your current campaign.
  3. Don’t be lazy. A half-hearted attempt will read as opportunistic or fake. Nail the details down to the right perfume or Lip Smackers flavor to get it right. 
  4. Be visual and use humor. Source eye-catching video clips or images that resonate quickly and are relevant to your campaign. Don’t take yourself too seriously and enjoy the humor of the moment. 

Whether you’re selling a product, an experience or a service, it’s our job as marketing professionals to find those “warm and fuzzies” and utilize them for connection. Connection breeds engagement and, therefore, successful campaigns.


Mary Claire Imbro