Retro marketing is just the thing during a recession.

June 4, 2009

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Old is cool, man!

From United Airlines in-flight magazine, Hemispheres I came upon a marketing article that made me nostalgic -literally. In it, author Dale Hrabi writes about the phenomenon of retro marketing, in which advertisers use elements from a product’s past to invoke fond memories in consumers and, in turn, generate more sales from them.

His examples are solid. General Mills reintroduction of vintage styled cereal boxes “Trix are for kids!” and Old Style beer bringing back the carbonation myth, “kreuzening” in order to bring back customers. Of course advertising follows suit. Hrabi’s article cites repurposing “The Fabric of Our Lives” for Cotton as well as Pepsi’s “Refresh Everything” anthem as prime examples.

There are plenty others. Indeed, marketing has been borrowing from and romancing the past every time it’s necessary. Necessary meaning whenever the marketplace is roiling or upset. Like during a recession. People hunger for comfort foods, low prices and the kind of products and services they grew up with when, you know, times were so much simpler, cheaper and better.

It’s hogwash (how’s that for a retro phrase?) but marketing based on nostalgia can be very persuasive. People want authenticity. People associate the past with authenticity. Ergo attaching one’s product to the past makes it authentic. The more legitimate the link is the better the outcome. Irrational sure. But marketers bank on it. It’s also human nature to look at history wistfully. Fact is most of the “good old days” were anything but.

Retro chic is a phrase I learned doing the Altoids campaign. Talk about romancing history. Everything about Altoids had a historic context (the formula, the packaging, the company), which partly explains why it became so popular in present day.

I’ve often wondered why certain advertisers don’t re-run beloved old campaigns. Anything in a can or box is likely the same as it was when we were growing up. Or close enough. Why not advertise it that way? The few times I’ve suggested as much to an agency peer the idea was never taken seriously. (Perhaps because we can’t make money on production.) Yet clients are just as reluctant to mine the past. Maybe it just seems like a copout.

But marketers are certainly flirting with the notion now. Back again “The Fabric of Our Lives” first appeared in 1989. “Have It Your Way” was Burger King’s slogan when I ate that crap in high school. Throw back soft drinks. Old school gym shoes. This is your father’s fill-in-the-blank. It’s all good. Anything that takes consumers back to a time when they were consuming!

Follow my old ass on Twitter or say Hello on Facebook -SRP

3 Responses to “Retro marketing is just the thing during a recession.”

  1. adchick said

    Considering the large baby boomer population, it would be very smart to do. And I suppose there really were “Good old days”….that depends on who you ask and how old they are.

  2. But why is nostalgia so effective? Why are we so caught up in reliving the past? And don’t think that I’m absolving myself of this… I’d be the first one to offer up “Hey, dude, remember when..” stories at the local watering hole.

    I think it might be safe to say that as long as we have memories, revisiting the past will continue to be a marketing gold mine.

  3. You have a wonderful Blog.I congratulate you for such a good blog.
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    Debashish Brahma.
    India.

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