Nostalgia can be defined as “sentimental.” Or a yearning desire for the past. It’s the warm and fuzzy feeling that surrounds us all… when we recollect positive times from yesteryear. Of course, this longing for the “good ole’ days” is a nearly universal trait… and, it turns out, a powerful tool today for bringing audiences — and brands — together.

Nostalgia marketing is the strategy of tapping into positive, familiar concepts from previous decades — designed to build historical trust — to help foster new ideas. This kind of marketing draws its power from cultural memories… rather than personal histories. At its core, it’s a strategic bridge that helps a company or branded product create a positive association with fond memories and connotations.

Nostalgia-based marketing campaigns invite customers to revisit those times in the past when they felt happy, or excited… even hopeful. As they re-live these experiences… they extend the same feelings of warmth to the brand.

In today’s uncertain times — when the daily news is all about the virus, inflation, political discord and invasions — reinforcing positive memories can help Building Product Brands foster long-lasting connections with their audiences.

The Appeal of the Familiar

For a nostalgia marketing effort to be optimally successful, the mission needs to be targeted to create an emotional hook, using elements from the past… while also introducing something new.

A great example of a campaign that combined past and present was an iPhone TV spot from a few years ago. The ad — designed to promote the device’s new onboard assistant Siri — featured Sesame Street’s beloved Cookie Monster. A highly likable character who figures into the childhoods of just about every American under the age of 60.

Apple cleverly combined the nostalgic lure with the introduction of an innovative technology… that would have been unthinkable, 20 years earlier. The brand leveraged a shared cultural memory to help launch a technology that was truly revolutionary — appearing that much more familiar — and, as such, far less intimidating.

Re-living these memories and seeing well-loved icons from the past creates good feelings among audiences.

This same approach can also have a place in B2B channel marketing.

Nostalgia is Alive and Well

Is it a surprise that Vanlife is trending again? Well, it’s not just the Woodstock generation… yearning for simpler times. This nomadic lifestyle, whether full-time or part-time, appeals to anyone looking for a taste of freedom and life on the open road. Personally, we’re counting the days until a modern version of the classic VW Vanagon arrives on the scene.

Marketing through a nostalgic lens can make complicated building science product systems and digital fin tech services seem even more accessible and down to earth. And, as such, that much more achievable.

By bridging the gap between the past and the present, brands are positioned to better reach specific demographics and buyer personas. For example, positive references from the ‘80s and ‘90s can attract millennials while harkening back to the ‘50s and ‘60s can draw in Baby Boomers.

Reaching Into the Past Works

Researchers at Washington State University studied the responses of consumers to nostalgic versus non-nostalgic ads. The results showed that consumers who had seen nostalgia-themed ads rated the ads — and those advertised brands — much more favorably, compared than those who had seen non-nostalgic ads.

Another study found that people were willing to pay more for something of interest… as a result of the social connectedness that nostalgia marketing fosters. It’s no surprise to see brands today, leveraging old memories to build emotional connections with their customers and prospects. Driving brand affinity and — ultimately — boosting sales.

Some brands are inherently nostalgic — for example, Elmira Stove Works, who offers 1890s- and 1950s-inspired appliances that feature modern convenience and functionality.

Yet, virtually any building product brand (even those currently in research and development) can take advantage of nostalgia marketing… when sales and marketing campaigns are well aligned and executed intentionally.

Ways to Leverage Nostalgia

Consider how these notable brands and strategies are leveraging the trend toward nostalgia. 

Celebrating a company milestone or anniversary. To commemorate 70 years in business, Briggs & Stratton brand Snapper® recently launched an updated look, including a new website and the return of Sam the Snapper, the brand’s original icon. The campaign mixes throwback images and subtle humor to help people recapture the pride they felt the first time they mowed their lawn. Or should we have said, cut the grass?

Product updates. Paint and architectural coating brands typically introduce new color palettes every year. So, perhaps it’s no wonder that Sherwin-Williams incorporated a wealth of nostalgic influences in its 2022 Colormix Forecast. The palettes include “Ephemera,” inspired by nostalgia for midcentury modern design. And “Method,” which takes its cues from art deco silhouettes and 1980s postmodernism. The overarching theme is “combining the best of what was with the possibility of everything that may yet be.”

A brand refresh. A few years ago, Ace hardware debuted an advertising campaign featuring an updated version of its longtime, and iconic, jingle. The new iteration — “Ace is the place with the helpful hardware folks” — is a slight variation on the original jingle, replacing the word ‘man’ with ‘folks’ to convey more inclusivity. The brand’s enduring jingle still rings true, but a subtle tweak… makes it feel that much more nostalgic.

#ThrowbackThursday. One of the most popular hashtags on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter is #ThrowbackThursday, where users post fun pictures and videos from the past. Consider actively participating in this organic hashtag campaign each week. After all, it’s a great way for building product brands to engage in nostalgia marketing without requiring this strategy to be a primary focus. And when momentum grows, expand engagement with relevant communities on #TransformationTuesday or #SustainabilitySunday.

Invoking the tried-and-true… while presenting the new-and-improved, can be a winning way to build brand affinity. Whether the target is Baby Boomers, Gen Xers or Millennials, Building Product Brands can capitalize on sentiment to create memorable, engaging campaigns… and have some fun along the way.

Looking for ways to build awareness for your brand? Send an e-mail to to get the conversation started.