Santa and Sales: Why Nostalgia Makes for Merry Marketing

Nostalgia and Content Marketing

When I was growing up, the holidays meant driving around town looking at Christmas lights with mugs of hot chocolate, leaving milk and cookies out for Santa, going to bed in new Christmas pajamas, and then waking up bright and early to open gifts while my mom read our handwritten letter from Santa. For many of us, holidays are about traditions and memories that will stay with us forever. What does this mean for your marketing campaign? It means this is the perfect time to leverage the power of nostalgia.

Why is nostalgia an effective marketing tool?

In October, I wrote a blog post about the top 10 attributes of viral marketing campaigns, one of which was “appeals to our emotions.” In particular, content that evokes feelings of nostalgia tends to be especially successful. Case in point: Some of BuzzFeed’s most popular content includes nostalgia-inspiring lists, such as “25 Foods You’ll Never Be Able to Eat Again” and “32 of Your Childhood Toys That Are Worth An Absolute Fortune Now.” You drank Squeezits while accidentally killing your Tamagotchi? Me, too!

So why do we all love content about old-school toys and Vanilla Ice and our childhood idea of Santa Claus? As a recent CoSchedule article points out, nostalgia has four common effects: improves mood, increases feelings of social connectedness, enhances positive self-image and provides existential meaning. The content makes us feel happy, and we can relate to it, so what do we do? We share it. As we all know, more shares mean more traffic. And as for conversions, a recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research shows that people are more likely to spend money when feeling nostalgic. Shares, traffic and conversions—even the Grinch would approve of these results.

Why is the holiday season an ideal time for nostalgic campaigns?

As this HubSpot blog post states, research has shown that “we tend to feel nostalgic for past events that 1) were personally meaningful, and 2) involved people we’re close to, like friends, family members, and significant others.” Since many of us consider holidays to be a meaningful time spent with family and friends, it’s easy to see why the holiday season lends itself to feelings of nostalgia.

The Emmy-winning 2013 Apple Christmas commercial is a prime example of a company successfully taking advantage of nostalgic holiday marketing. I dare you to watch this without tearing up or at least yearning for past holiday time spent with family:

Another popular example from this year, the John Lewis Christmas commercial perfectly captures the magic of the season from a child’s perspective. Anyone who once had a beloved stuffed animal can relate to the story of Monty the Penguin:

How do I create a holiday marketing campaign that evokes nostalgia?

  1. Remember your target audience. Nostalgia is universal, and even children as young as 7 can experience it, but your campaign should be designed with your specific consumer in mind. Relatability is key.
  1. Hone in on the holiday events your target audience likely experienced and remembers fondly. Choose specific and emotional experiences.
  1. Use music, images and video to enhance the sense of nostalgia. Can you listen to Frank Sinatra’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” without remembering holidays past? I know I can’t.
  1. Don’t lose the purpose of your campaign. The sense of nostalgia must connect with the product being sold or the message being conveyed. The 2013 Apple commercial is a perfect example of this—the ad is certainly sweet and nostalgic, but the bottom line is clear: The iPhone brings people together (and you should buy it!).

What are your favorite holiday marketing campaigns? Do you have any holiday marketing tips? Share with us in the comments!

Enjoyed this post? Read more by Laurel Reese here.

Laurel Reese – Project Manager


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