Nostalgia, ULTRA: Why #Millennials Can’t Get Enough of the Past

It’s Day 35. And I have yet to play or download the one game that had everyone’s summer going nuts.

Unless you’re an octogenarian or have been living under a rock for the last month or so, you’ve heard about Nintendo’s latest sensation, Pokemon Go.1  Nearly overnight, the game ballooned into a cultural phenomena, boasting more daily users than Twitter and adding $9 BILLION in market value to the gaming company.


This is all a viral marketer’s wet dream. Who would have thunk that this game would become so beloved that people would begin to refer to it as the answer to world peace?

Let’s examine this a bit deeper. When looking at it from a marketing lens, it’s not really a phenomena at all, just a combination of an age old marketing idea and suburb timing.

For starters, millennials crave nostalgia. It’s our kryptonite. It’s the reason why the entire party goes crazy when the opening strings for “Back That Azz Up” begin.


Nearly two decades ago, The Onion discussed the phenomenon, musing that “we may be running out of past.” Of course, The Onion is a satirical site, but they were on to something.Fueled by social media trends like #TBT (which Digital Trends estimates began back in 2011), millennials have increasingly gravitated towards childhood memories. “We call this ‘early-onset nostalgia,’ where there is such an information overload that it has compressed their sense of time,” said Deep Focus CEO Jamie Gutfreund in an article with Digiday.

In 2014, the Journal of Consumer Research conducted an experiment, which concluded that nostalgic marketing equaled an uptick in sales. Since then, several articles have attempted to explain the psychology behind our nostalgic tendencies. Although using nostalgia marketing isn’t necessarily a new concept, when paired with the power of social media, it has become an even bigger force.

“Cool. So, how can I apply any of this to my brand?”

So glad you asked, Gentle Reader.

First, decide if nostalgic marketing fits your brand and your overall marketing strategy. Is there a former version of a product you’ve released that particularly resonated with your audience at the time? Secondly, remember to remain authentic. Consumers (especially millennials) can sniff through inauthentic fluff in seconds. Remember, everything isn’t for everybody. It’s a smarter bet to stick with your current plan than to release something that makes it look like you’re trying too hard. That’s not fetch.

While only time will tell how long the Pokemon Go craze lasts, one thing is sure. Well, two things – nostalgic marketing is here to stay and I am never ever ever going to play that game.

1: I’m going to be frank: I was super interested in playing the game until I realized that there was passive exercise involved. NOAPE.

2: I should have bought stock. SMH.

3: I’ve been saying this more and more lately. Curiouser and curiouser, indeed.

4: This one by The Debrief was one of my favorites.



About the Author: Krysten Copeland is the founder of KC & Co Communications, a boutique Public Relations and Marketing firm located in Washington, DC.

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