Thursday, March 24, 2011

Keep Up-to-Date with Nostalgia Appeals

Is it more than coincidence? Within a three-week period,
  • Heinz Ketchup said they’re bringing back the eight-sided glass bottle from the 1990s.
  • Current Hostess Cakes snack brands premiered retro packaging, and Twinkies cupcakes reincarnated the same style banana filling of old.
  • PepsiCo announced throwback versions of Pepsi, Mountain Dew, and Doritos.
     The explosive blast from the past wasn’t limited to food, snack, and beverage brands. Retailer brands like Restoration Hardware and L.L.Bean, which reek of tradition, were targeted for extraordinary growth, too.
     So do you want to revise your store name to reek of tradition, too? Maybe all that’s necessary is to add the words “Old School” in front of whatever you’re calling yourself now. Or you could require that all the sales help dress like the characters from “Mad Men.” Well, okay. More realistic alternatives are to remind shoppers of your store’s history (“Serving our community since 1948”) and dressing up the shelves with assorted nostalgic products.
     Whatever you do, remember that the nostalgia appeal, ironically, has a limited freshness date. The special edition of Heinz Ketchup disappears after five months. The Hostess Cakes items made their Brigadoon-style appearance for only one month.
     In 2004, Pacific Cycle brought out a redo of the Schwinn Sting-Ray, arousing memories of a bicycle loved by kids growing up a generation before. That bicycle garnered an award as the 2004 Toy Industry Association Outdoor Toy of the Year. But two years later, Dorel, the Pacific Cycles parent company by then, decided to take a loss of $3.5 million on its remaining Sting-Ray bicycle inventory in order to convince retailers to sell off the bikes.
     Among consumer psychologists, there’s a sense that nostalgia appeal is due to feelings of uncertainty, such as from economic downturns or social isolation. Researchers from Arizona State University and Erasmus University in the Netherlands concluded that when people are feeling lonely, they become interested in nostalgia. When made to feel socially uncertain by the experimental manipulation, consumers became more likely to prefer automobile makes, food brands, TV shows, movies, and even shower soaps which reminded them of their personal history.
     Use the nostalgia appeal now, but keep up-to-date on when the appeal is due to fade because your shoppers’ social uncertainty is easing.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

Click below for more:
Meet Customers’ Desires for Nostalgia
Suggest Nostalgic Items to Lonely Shoppers


  1. Interesting. We're enjoying a boost to our 'Fraggle Rock' plush sales at since Hasbro bought themselves a network and started showing the '80's Jim Henson series. The kids who watched Fraggle Rock twenty+ years ago are watching it with their kids now. I wonder how much of our sales are nostalgia driven and likely to disappear when social uncertainty eases, and how much is the typical kids wanting what they see on TV and pushing their parents to buy it!

  2. My guess is that a significant driver of the sales will be the degree to which kids want to have what they see on TV. If the parent really wants the kid to play with the toy, there are plenty of circumstances in which the parent might be best advised to avoid saying, “You’ll love this toy because I loved to play with it.” The kid thinks, “Whoa. This thing is really out-of-date.”
    More generally, you bring up an excellent point, Peter: The nostalgia appeal can add a kick, even if it’s only for the short term, but the item can have staying power because of other attributes.