Is nostalgia becoming a thing of the past as a brand value?

  • The question is about whether new brand managers in a company feel under pressure to change some brand-values for the sake of change? Given that brands indeed could become “tired” if not changed and there’s always a need to make them “relevant”. But while doing so in an increasingly uncertain world, do we tend to undervalue nostalgia ? LinkedIn Question by: Gerry Scullion.

First and foremost, we need to understand that a Brand is like a person (and if you succeed in doing the reverse, you’re great too:)). With such an understanding, it’s very easy to see that “Nostalgia” is a part of a person’s as well as a brand’s personality – whether identified as visible element or not – and hence cannot or should not be neglected! And if the brand manager does his job well, he’d definitely – and I repeat, definitely – find a way to make “nostalgia’ relevant in the life of the brand.

Nostalgia is an important value for a brand, especially on its journey towards becoming “Iconic”. One of the important characteristics of Iconic brands is that they are “super-familiar” – which can be enhanced by repeatedly associating them with nostalgic brand experiences – either modified or otherwise.

Numerous examples could be given to validate the point that “iconic” brands have used nostalgia even in recent times to gain more customers / followings; eg. Coca Cola “bottle” led campaign; Harley’s campaigns, etc.

Now, there are many companies, managers, brand experts, who flout this rule – not because they are not aware of it, but because, their top management (perhaps) insists on changing track at the cost of losing brand value.

In conclusion, YES, in the ever changing “fast” world, “The Power of NOW” rules supreme!

However, regardless their age, there’s always a part of the consumer, which pangs for something he / she experienced in the past – recent or long drawn. Thus “Nostalgia” could become a thing of the past in case of a few companies / brands / managers – but can and would never be neglected if one considers taking the brand to its Iconic status.

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About shantanu.sengupta
I'm a passionate Strategic Marketing professional who deeply understands the interplay of Technology, Collaboration and Design that drives brand innovation and growth in a post-recession world today. I believe that marketing solutions cannot be found by referring to historical case studies, esp. since no two marketing problems are the same. As a result, instead of adhering to a jargonised approach to marketing, I follow Design Thinking principles, challenge existing norms and processes, and search for innovative ways to solve marketing problems. I specialize in developing and implementing marketing and communication strategies across B2C and B2B channels, with a clear focus on brand development and customer engagement that increases future brand value.

4 Responses to Is nostalgia becoming a thing of the past as a brand value?

  1. I still see iconic brands using nostalgia in their marketing and advertising. Coke has a great ad right now showing in US movie theaters that plays on sound effects and our familiarity with all of the brand’s attributes, from the design of the bottle to iconic sounds like coca cola fiz, glass bottles clanking together, coke being poured into a glass, ice cubes bouncing around, etc. As subtle as it may be this is nostalgic branding as well, though not in the classic sense.

    Consider also that nostalgic branding tends to be seasonal: Look at what Coca Cola does around Christmas time vs. what it does in the spring and summer. Certain times of year lend themselves better to nostalgia than others, and smart brands understand the link between childhood memories around certain times of the year and their appeal to a certain category of customers.

    Brand managers who don’t understand this are missing a very big opportunity to give their brands context and continuity. (I am kind of seeing this with Pepsi, which basically has lost all sense of identity. Pepsi is a name and a logo and a business with huge distribution and visibility… but no “brand” to speak of anymore.)

    Great little post. It gave me a lot to think about.

    • shantanusengpta says:

      Thanks for your comments and appreciation of the post.

      Seasonality is indeed an inherent element under the wide aegis of nostalgia. Like in the West, we’ve seen Coke doing a lot of new campaigns in India capturing the nostalgic moments we all cherished since our younger days; e.g. Festival of Colors (Holi), Festival of Lights (Diwali) etc.

      I guess the moot point here is that in search of a new thing to talk about the brand, many of the brand managers today ignore the fact that “nostalgia” need not necessarily mean “old”. After all there could be innumerable ways by which one can convey nostalgia, while still be fresh and new 🙂

      Although comparisons may not be correct, but most probably these same brand managers would do well to get a little deeper into good quality Wines and understand that one needs to know the taste of good old wine, to appreciate the flavor of the newer lot.

  2. I believe the reason Nostalgia is so important is because we are in a way conditionned by the parrallel with a living being. If you have been around a while, and have lived through much, then you have accumulated experience and you are perceived as being wise. Brands need that element of time to establish themselves as stable personae, wise and raise their credibility as a strong brand.

    Great post. Thanks,


  3. shubho says:

    The past is the future. With people, and with brands.

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