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#10: Tapping into Nostalgia Marketing

We all remember the smell of our grandma’s apple pie baking in the oven. The touch of the softened-over-time, well-used blankets at our parents house. And the sounds of crunching cereal during Saturday morning childhood commercials.

Our senses have a way of pulling us into an instant state of nostalgia - a magical and dangerous place to be.

As the writer Kate Christensen says, “Nostalgia is a powerful drug. Under its influence, ordinary songs take on dimensions and powers, like emotional superheroes.”

This year’s Super Bowl commercials proved it’s not just songs that take on new powers - it’s ordinary products, too.

In today’s edition, we’ll examine how brands put nostalgia marketing front and centre at Super Bowl 2023 in order to appeal to Millennial audiences.

The Power of the Past

But, first, what is nostalgia marketing?

Nostalgia marketing is a technique used by brands to tap into the emotions and memories of their buyers in order to create a sense of familiarity and comfort with their brand. Through leveraging feelings of nostalgia, companies can make their products more appealing and memorable to their target audience.

Manipulative? Probably. Effective? Absolutely.

One of the main reasons nostalgia marketing is so effective is that it taps into our emotions and creates a connection with our past experiences. Whether it's a childhood memory (like grandma’s apple pie), a favorite song, or a classic movie, the things we remember from the past often hold a special place in our hearts. When a brand can connect with these memories and emotions, it can create an instant positive association.

Nostalgia marketing is particularly effective in a world that is constantly changing and evolving. In times of uncertainty or instability, people often crave the comfort and familiarity of the past. By tapping into this desire for nostalgia, brands can create a sense of stability and reliability that buyers are looking for.

And that’s exactly what we saw on display at the Super Bowl.

Roll the Tape

Clueless & Rakuten

I knew we were in for a treat this year when I saw Alicia Silverstone’s iconic yellow plaid outfit. Cher was back! Is there such a thing as watching Clueless too many times? As if! I was instantly excited about any product that would bring my favorite valley girl back to life.

Watch the commercial here.

Breaking Bad & PopCorners

Breaking Bad’s dynamic duo Walter White and Jesse Pinkman cooked up some new recipes in a delicious looking ad for the snack food PopCorners. The brand also invested in a more film-like extended cut that was released after the game.

Watch the commercial here.

Zoolander & Pepsi

If you have ever wondered if there was more to life, other than being really, really, ridiculously good looking, Pepsi’s Super Bowl ad was for you. Ben Stiller reprised his role as Derek Zoolander to promote the new Pepsi Zero Sugar, and made us all eager for another sequel.

Watch the commercial here.

Key Takeaways for PMMs

While nostalgia marketing may not be right for every product and brand, there’s a lesson in here for product marketers.

As a PMM, we focus a ton of energy on identifying our ICP’s pains, gains and jobs to be done. But, these Super Bowl ads serve as a reminder to go beyond the traditional customer interview questions.

How might we better understand how our target customer’s past influences the decisions they make in the present?