Look to the past to see the future: the marketing power of nostalgia

Phil Szomszor

28 Feb 2017

Da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da-daaa. As soon as I heard that distinctive ringtone I knew I had to have one. I was watching highlights from the Mobile World Congress (MWC) press launch of the Nokia 3310, and seeing the internet going into collective meltdown. We knew it was going to happen. At our pre-show MWC predictions event Ben Wood from analyst house CCS insight anticipated the excitement (in fact he thinks the revived Nokia will make a strong return, taking 5% of the global smartphone market by the end of 2019). Of course I don't need a new phone. I already have a state-of-the-art iPhone 6S, which is more digital extra limb than phone. But that's the point. The chubby, colourful 3310 harks back to a simpler time, when you used your phone for three things: calling, texting and playing Snake. The excitement for me illustrates the never-ending power of nostalgia in marketing. In technology, looking forward often means looking back. Take last year’s runaway success, Pokemon Go. Yes there were people like me discovering Pokemon for the first time, but for millions of fans it was a chance to bring their childhood hunt for Pokemon literally to life. Last year we launched the most hotly demanded toy of the year, the Star Wars laser-battling drones from Propel. The tagline, “They're finally here”, was a nod to the dream of every 70s and 80s child to battle their mates in a TIE fighter or X-Wing. There are countless other examples: the vinyl revival, the return of Ghostbusters to our screens, the Nintendo Classic Mini, and the crowdfunded Elite Dangerous. Nostalgia can help to humanise a brand and, importantly, give it a story and reason for being. What's interesting is that you don't need to have been around first time around to be affected by nostalgia - there's a collective experience (that often isn't even that close to the reality of how things were first time around).

The next technology comeback?

Last week it was announced that we’ll see the return of the Sinclair C5 concept, which will cost an eye-watering £3,500. Let’s hope it does better than the Sinclair Spectrum Vega... I’ve crowdsourced some suggestions of tech or cultural revivals people would like to see… What would you like to see make a comeback?