Nostalgia: why embracing the past is the way forward for social marketeers

Start with the ‘why’.

This is [or should be] the mantra for any effective content marketing strategy. This is particularly important with social, where often the hard-sell message needs to take a backseat to genuine engagement and sensitivity when it comes to why social users are on that platform, and why they should even bother following you, let alone buying whatever it is you pesky kids are peddling!


But not really. Cultural references are a sure-fire way to relate to your followers, trigger conversation and engagement. The key is understanding the demographic, not of just the market or the channel; but better understanding who your campaign is aimed at can give your brand insight into your user’s age, backgrounds, geography and thusly enable you to adjust your tone, language, references, and subsequent visual styling and imagery. Using cultural references and tapping into a user’s nostalgia is an effective means of generating an emotive response and a connection that might further a customer along the buyer journey. Yes. But’s it more than that.

If social platforms are king, recycling content or resurrecting old posts is the lady Macbeth that made him king in the first place. We are constantly presented throwback or time-hop style content via platform algorithms, tempting us to re-engage with posts/images from yesteryear. Engagement with the past, rekindling friendships, reminding yourself of how you used to look or what you used to consider a personal politic: these are the platforms of the platforms. Which means that culturally, if we are engaging in social, we want to engage with the past.

On nostalgia in marketing, Forbes discusses how “those memories counteract loneliness, boredom, and anxiety. In addition to fostering positive effects and strengthening social bonds, nostalgia increases generosity and tolerance to strangers — and that leaves us open to brand messaging.”

I wasn’t alive in the 80s (awks), but even I can see the genius of Coca Cola tapping into the memory of the “New Coke” launch failure of 1985. Coke is no stranger to retro concepts or nor nostalgia, so a partnership with the “Stranger Things” fandom and phenomenon of Netflix resulted in a myriad of creative opportunities for social using one iconic 80s film reference after another. The possibilities, like the upside down, were indeed, endless.

What makes this trend even more exciting? IT’S NOT A TREND.

Social media has literally changed our lives, language, and literary habits. Rebecca Watson identified in the Financial Times, how social media has affected design in all formats (so did we).

“I loved the [book] cover because it spoke a language I had learnt from Twitter and Instagram, not, at first, from books…This disjunction was almost thrilling. Social media is often dismissed as devoid of intellectual substance, but its interaction with literary culture goes beyond authors promoting themselves on Twitter. Readers are fluent in the internet’s visual language — crude memes, glitching web pages, piled-up browser tabs — and the book world has learnt to participate.”

The dichotomy of mixing references of platforms, mediums, media and cultures is what makes social media exceptionally exciting to create for; because the lack of boundaries makes it easier to narrow in on what will make your audience really feel something.

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