Love of the Past is Driving Sales Today.
Back in the day, the good times, days gone by—however you refer to it, consumers are flocking to products that give a nod to the past. In entertainment, design, food, and drink, retro design and flavors are generating a lot of buzz and driving business.
What’s causing the rise of retro?
Some of the nostalgia is biological. Sensory experiences, such as taste and smell, become so intertwined with memories that experiencing those same flavors or scents rekindles the emotions from those past moments. Summertime is rife with such events. The combination of sunshine and Pepsi might spark the memory of going to your first waterpark, or backyard cookout, or hanging out with friends during summer vacation. This isn’t a surprise, it’s science. According to Susan Whitborne, professor of psychology and brain sciences at University of Massachusetts, “Food memories are more sensory than other memories in that they involve really all five senses—so when you’re that thoroughly engaged with the stimulus, it has a more powerful effect.”
Another factor driving consumer sentimentality is driven by concerns about today and the future. Nearly eight in ten Americans report being stressed in their daily lives, according to a December 2017 Gallup poll. In light of this, it makes sense that people are turning to a seemingly simpler time for comfort and hope.
Companies are looking back for inspiration
Whether as cause or effect, there are many examples in every arena using the past to their advantage—particularly the 1980s and 90s. The Netflix series Stranger Things is immersed in a nostalgia-fueled early 80s setting. Similarly, Fujifilm, Leica, and Polaroid have all recently launched updated instant cameras. Nintendo brought back the NES classic edition, using headlines in the marketing such as, “Remember your first Goomba stomp?” And Geico has used Masters of the Universe cartoon characters in some if its advertising.
Beverage companies are also taking advantage of this trend by reintroducing products and designs. MillerCoors reintroduced Zima in 2017, referring to it as the “it” drink of the 90s. PepsiCo briefly brought back its iconic 90s clear cola, Crystal Pepsi, and the “Pepsi Generations” campaign uses retro cups and designs to evoke fond memories of enjoying Pepsi cola.
When to let nostalgia lead
Summer is one of the times when classics are extremely popular. Options associated with the season, like grilled hot dogs and Pepsi, might encourage consumers to think about times shared with friends and family. And new items that put an original spin on something familiar to summertime are more likely to be successful. For example, instead of grilled hot dogs with Pepsi, chili dog tacos with lemon-lime diet Pepsi (easily crafted with Pepsi Spire®) could be a hit during the summer because they use memories of the classics as a foundation to welcome something new.
Gen Z respond to products that have a retro buzz—but they didn’t experience—because of fear of missing out.
Nostalgia is a powerful force with today’s consumers. From Gen Z to X, and especially the millennials in the middle, incorporating retro and classic elements in product choices and designs is a smart way to grab attention and drive business.