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Why brands should avoid playing the nostalgia card in their marketing

Why brands should avoid playing the nostalgia card in their marketing

By Daniel Dumoulin, Partner, Sundance.

As each day brings confused news of the recovery from or the persistence of a global economic melt down, it is little wonder that we are all craving a little bit of security and comfort.

The impact of a recession does not stop with dwindling bank accounts and job losses. Its reach is far wider as people begin to evaluate their lives and possibilities for the future.

Questions about meaning, worth and their role in society become tied into a need to seek out security, safety, comfort, support and a sense of solidarity. These questions also permeate into most everyday aspects of our life, including the ways in which we shop.

Nostalgic branding is often reverted to by marketers during times of crisis, as the consumer reacts to memories of a time that felt better. In the last 18 months nostalgia has stormed the marketing world, with brands from Virgin to Hovis revisiting their heritage to make, often subconscious, emotive drivers more patent and tangible.

ASDA recently reported a boost in sales of traditional brands such as Bird’s Custard, Bisto Gravy and Fray Bentos pies.

Hovis also created a £15million campaign to bring back the ‘boy on the bike’ and used the advert to take the audience through a journey of the highs and lows of Britain during the company’s existence.

This was combined with the reintroduction of the original sized loaf. While today’s consumer is looking for security and comfort, it cannot be ignored that price and the perception of value are also key during an economic crunch.

Marketing during a recession is further complicated by the growth of a more savvy, information hungry consumer. Price alone is not enough and playing upon brand history and heritage will only help to a point.

There has never been a greater interest in product information: ‘Is it good for me?’, ‘Where do the ingredients come from?’, ‘Are they ethically sourced?’, ‘Is it carbon neutral?’.

There is a new challenge to reconcile a sense of value with consumer ideologies, which provides a great opportunity to redefine a deeply rooted marketing concept: the ‘value brand’.

What the consumer needs right now is a mix of value and values. Waitrose is a brand which has achieved this delicate balance with the launch of its Essential Waitrose range.

There are over 1,400 lines of staple groceries in the range, but the overriding message is that buying these products does not equate to a compromise on the quality standards or sourcing integrity that Waitrose is renowned for.

The eggs are free range, the pork is outdoor reared and the bananas are Fairtrade. As a result, the consumer feels that they have purchased a good, quality product at a fair price, without having negated their sensitivity to the source of the ingredients and their subsequent impact on the environment.

There is no doubt that nostalgic marketing will continue to envelop up us in a warm comfort blanket. However, today’s consumer places more emphasis on ethics and has a greater need for information.

Brands that demonstrate a deeper understanding of consumers’ more complex pressures and thought processes will have a real opportunity to reaffirm loyalty and, in years to come, could find themselves in the same league in which Bird’s and Bisto have established themselves.

AJR
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