Tupac, Pokemon Go, Big Brother and Nokias: Nostalgic experiential marketing is here to stay

Using nostalgia and pop culture in experiential marketing is clever and memorable. But, alone, it isn't enough, as Brecht Fourneau explains.

From the quintessential resurrection of Tupac at Coachella in 2012, to bringing Pokemon out of the 90s and into the late 2010s with Pokemon Go, or the Magic Mike show hitting Aussie stages in 2020, there’s no doubt that marketers are catching on to the success of bringing back formerly loved popular culture movements. 

The resurrection of pop culture trends provides a powerful way to pull on the heartstrings of nostalgic audiences. In fact, research from the Journal of Consumer Marketing found that invoking nostalgia led people to be more generous and more willing to spend money.

And in today’s world, saturated with long working hours and never-ending to-do lists, feel-good memories give consumers the chance to escape from burdens and reflect on simpler times. 

Marketers are beginning to tap into the power of cultural trends to connect audiences and brands. Even TV networks are cashing in on the desire for nostalgic content, with Seven bringing back Big Brother, Farmer Wants A Wife and Packed To The Rafters in 2020. 

Seven confirmed it’s bringing Big Brother back to Australian screens

One of the most notable Coachella performances of all time was given from beyond the grave. In 2012, 15 years after his death, Tupac performed via hologram alongside Snoop Dog to an audience of 80,000. His resurrection reportedly resulted in a 571% jump on the Billboard 200 for the rappers 1998 album ‘Greatest Hits’, as it entered the list for the first time since 2000. 

The phenomenon of Pokemon saw millions racing out to trade their Squirtle, Bulbasaur and Charmander cards before battling against each other. Twenty years after its initial release, an augmented reality mobile application version, Pokemon Go, took the world by storm. The widespread success of the app, which was used by an impressive 500m people, saw Nindento’s stock prices skyrocket. 

At Mobile World Congress 2017, arguably one of the most well-recognised conferences in the mobile industry, Nokia announced the remake of the 3310 from 17 years prior – and it was all anyone could talk about. The rebirth of this phone tapped into the emotions of a generation reminiscent of simpler times when phones simply let you text, make calls or, at most, squeeze in a game of Snake.

Yet, despite its nostalgic and novice value, there wasn’t consumer demand for the product.

Although nostalgia stimulates emotional triggers and elicits a response key for marketers looking to engage audiences, relying solely on nostalgia doesn’t provoke customer loyalty to a brand. To effectively capture consumer attention for the long term, nostalgia must be paired with other marketing activities that demonstrate brand value, benefits and core attributes.

One recent example of a brand taking nostalgic marketing to the next level was retailer Mecca’s annual Meccaland. At this event, brands come together in one place to deliver life-sized products, branded rides, masterclasses, discounts and photo opportunities for the ultimate immersive experience. 

Meccaland moved its customers away from a typical, mundane, shopping centre experience. Consumers were able to make purchases in an environment that combined nostalgic feelings with cultural moments that extend beyond the beauty sector. This combination of nostalgia and experimental marketing stimulated both excitement and greater brand awareness, ultimately encouraging on-the-day purchases and long-term connections with the brand exhibitors. 

Meccaland connects brands to consumers in a new way

Yet examples like Meccaland are few and far between. Instead of getting creative and taking risks, many brands either implement a nostalgic stunt that doesn’t accurately reflect the broader brand value or fails to elicit a certain consumer behaviour, or they rest on their laurels and fall back on traditional marketing tactics that involve pushing out sales-led messaging. 

Neither of these approaches will work in attracting and retaining consumers. And in a world where consumer trust in brands is eroding, more needs to be done to rebuild consumer connections and bring about the authenticity and meaning they desire. 

In 2020, brands need to push the boundaries when it comes to their marketing strategies. They must look to those that have done it best, combining nostalgia with experimental marketing and a value-add experience that attracts and retains swathes of loyal customers.

Only those willing to take the leap and transform the way they interact with consumers will reap the rewards. 

Brecht Fourneau is senior director of marketing, EMEA and APAC, at Aventri


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