Use Nostalgia to Build Your Brand, Even If You're A Start-Up

It’s that time of year again where we all hark back to the good ol’ days of riding one horse sleighs, building snowmen in meadows and conspiring as chestnuts roast on blazing fires. And so on.

But these days, nostalgia isn’t just a Christmas trend.

Throwback Thursday, the ubiquitous ‘vintage’ Instagram filter, a boom in flea markets, retro gaming and handmade goods…Millennials are re-embracing their tattoo chokers and Kickers in a 90s revival that is as much a romanticising of yesteryear as it is a genuine appreciation of Jazzy Jeff’s back catalogue.

As futurist and author Richard Watson puts it, “The yearning for the past is deeply connected to uncertainty surrounding the future. We are looking for something that’s less complex, warmer, and more certain.”

During this age of economic, political and social disruption, so many of us are experiencing a bittersweet longing for simpler times.

So as a business, evoking nostalgia and connecting your customers to the stories, people and values of the past is a wonderful way you can help make the stresses and strains of modern life melt away.

Done well, it can also help to give you gravitas, credibility and natural authority.

And the most surprising part? Your brand doesn’t have to be centuries old to do it.

It’s easy to think that nostalgia can only work for brands like Lyles Golden Syrup “since 1883” or Bisto, “part of family mealtimes since 1908,” but even the youngest of businesses can use the past to their advantage.

  • Does your brand share values with your forebears? The pioneering spirit, the hope of the baby-boomer age, the tech-race of the 1980s?

It would have been easy for SCL, who provide web analytics, SEO and testing, to focus on the cutting edge technology of their business, and to present themselves as an ultra-modern brand.

However, by focusing on the joy and wonder their early use of technology created- “it still feels miraculous”, and reapeatedly linking their current work to that of their founders, “Just as the 1960s team tested the safety of nuclear power stations, our current solutions are used to test the code for live tanks” SCL make use of their heritage to make a nostalgic emotional connection.

  • Is there something in your personal history that makes you the right person to tell your story?

It’s not only your company history that’s important - founders of a newer business always have their own backgrounds to draw upon.

We’re an example of this ourselves.

Take a quick look at our ‘About’ page, where Anna draws upon her own childhood- “by the age of 7 I was sent to get books from another school building because I’d read every single one in mine.”

In using this personal detail, our readers’ minds are inevitably drawn back to their own schooldays.

  • Could you revive a beloved character from the past?

It doesn’t even have to be your own history which is drawn upon to create nostalgia.

This year, digital music service Spotify ran an advertising campaign featuring characters Atreyu and Falkor from the 1980s movie ‘The Neverending Story’, showing the pair soaring through the skies, only 30 years older in the modern day.

The strapline “Never Ending Story’ by Limahl: Still Streamed Every Day.” creates that all important sense of nostalgic connection and shared memories discussed above, showing Spotify is a place where children of the 80s are still finding the music that’s important to them.

Can your brand evoke nostalgia and evoke warm fuzzy feelings? It’s a wonderful gift to give your customer, at any time of year.

About the Author: Alice Perry

Alice Perry

Alice is Inkspiller’s project manager. She oversees all that we do, and thinks there is no task that can’t be improved by the making of a bulleted list.


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