On Thanksgiving weekend, my family made the trek to Chicago via the vast expanse of corn and windmills that is Northern Indiana. And, since the radio options ranged only from “Indiana’s Kicking Country” to “Hoosier Country” to “Kicking Indiana Country Hoosier Style,” we all settled on a Christmas music station. It was while listening to this station that a question came from the back seat. “Why doesn’t anybody write any new Christmas songs?”
As we drove, songs passed by like highway signs. Perry Como into Brenda Lee into Burl Ives. “The Christmas Song” into “Blue Christmas” into “Santa Baby.” And, never mind that many of these songs were written by people who were long dead by the time my children were born, there was rarely a complaint . Each passenger in our car from ages 14 through 46 was wrapped in the same comforting cloak of nostalgia.
Artists don’t write new Christmas songs because we don’t want to hear them.
Nostalgia is a powerful advertising and marketing force. Certainly the radio stations that start playing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” long before Thanksgiving recognize that. But so do retailers. The iconic 90’s brand Old Navy launched an ad campaign featuring The Backstreet Boys and the cast of 90210. The Cleveland Browns brought back that bizarre elf logo from their heyday. And, every Christmas, the reigning Grand Champion of Nostalgia, The Walt Disney Company, re-releases some animated feature for the tenth time, but this time it’s in a “shiny super ultra deluxe blu-ray edition pewter collectors case.”
How can your company harness the power of nostalgia in your advertising? Start with what you’re selling. Does your product or service have a history? If you sell TV’s, harken back to the days of rabbit ears, tin foil, and antenna rotors. If you sell auto parts, bring the consumer back to a Saturday morning working with dad in the garage. Nostalgia evokes powerful memories and when your product ties to a special memory, you stand out vividly from your competition.
Social Media is the ultimate incubator for nostalgia. Ask your Facebook friends about their first rock concert, their fondest holiday food memory, a favorite cartoon, or the best grade-school recess game, and the responses will come flowing in like a wave of memories. Show them you share the same interests and memories and you become an instant “old friend.”
It might be time to consider that the next big thing your company has been looking for in its advertising may have happened 30 years ago.