NEW: Sean Adams

Spruik your credentials, if you’ve got them. But sometimes ‘looking back’ can be a greater bonus for your brand.

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be

Sean Adams

One of the most popular TV commercials in Britain last year was from Cadbury. The ad featured a gorilla, a drum kit and an early 1980’s music track – “In the air tonight” by Phil Collins. 

When I first saw the ad, apart from appreciating the simple and unexpected pleasure it provided, I found myself being instantly transported back to another time and place.

I found myself thinking about the bedroom where I spent much of my youth listening to music, the friends I used to spend time with, the places I used to go to, the good times I had almost forgotten about. All this brought on just by watching a chocolate ad.

This got me thinking a bit about the topic of nostalgia.

As we all grow older, and life seems to get faster and faster, it is perhaps inevitable that on occasions we yearn for years gone by – a time when life somehow seemed so much simpler and more carefree.

These feelings may spend most of their time suppressed beneath the day-to-day minutiae of life in 2008, but on occasions they can be brought to the surface, suddenly and unexpectedly, typically triggered by icons of our past.

Such feelings of nostalgia are very real and can be incredibly strong. They also can provide a potent opportunity for marketers.

If properly harnessed, nostalgia can provide an immediate connection, giving the feeling that this brand somehow “knows me” and some of my own personal history.

And if they have been prepared to take the time to understand me a bit better, I might look at them in a more positive light next time I am deciding what to buy.

So if you are trying to increase your brand’s relevance to a particular target audience, why not take a journey into their past.

Explore the icons of popular culture that may have played a pivotal role in their personal evolution – TV shows, fashion trends, personalities, movies, sports stars, crazes, and of course music. Ask yourself how your brand can somehow attach itself to their past

If used sympathetically, nostalgia can be a powerful way of appealing to the emotions of your target audience and increasing your brand’s relevance in their eyes

Now what did I do with that old Phil Collins LP?


Sean Adams founded his marketing advisory company The Seed in late 2000. Sean has had nearly 20 years advertising experience in Australia and Britain across a range of disciplines – research, planning, account management and media. Over that time he has worked with some of the world’s top advertising agencies, working with many of the world’s leading brands

To read more Sean Adams blogs, click here.



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