Nostalgia in Pop Culture: The Marketing for Millennials

By Nevelee Shekhar | Edited by Ruth D’Souza 

If you’ve ever watched a television show or an advertisement and felt sentimental, you have felt nostalgia. If you’ve ever gone back to your childhood days after the smell of your mom’s cooking, you have felt nostalgia. Nostalgia is the wistful feeling you get which takes you back to a period in the past and makes you reminisce about that time. When brands keep track of the pulse of modern and popular culture, they use themes or products of the past in their current marketing strategy to create a unique and emotional experience for the consumers.

Why cater to Nostalgia?

Businesses use the idea of nostalgia to sway consumers into buying their products or services, for example, the comeback of the vinyl or bringing back the classic Nintendo. ‘Nostalgia Marketing’ is the strategy various businesses use to tap into familiar concepts to build trust and revitalize it into new ideas. When customers have fond memories of a particular good or service, it is a great tactic to strengthen the company’s consumer base. Companies like to associate their brand with the contentment and security these nostalgic items bring to individuals. We see nostalgia marketing all around us, whether we notice it or not. Be it when we turn on the television and see a commercial with an old actor, or we hear a song with a catchy tune. Whether intentional or purely accidental, the tactic never fails to deliver. For example, the thrilling sensation and excitement Americans felt when McDonald’s famous ‘McRib’ was back on a limited edition menu is one example of intentional nostalgia marketing. 

Another instance is when we’re looking for something to watch on Netflix and spot an old tv show or movie, we are immediately drawn towards watching it. Whether it is licensing old shows or hosting reunions, online streaming sites such as Netflix are spearheading the marketing of nostalgia.  In 2018, Nielsen’s data showed us that online platform users spent around 85 billion minutes watching The Office and Friends. This shows major corporations that acquiring such rights to shows will be profitable for their companies. Reportedly, Netflix spent half a billion on Seinfeld, Warner Media spent more than $425 million on Friends, and NBCUniversal spent $500 million on The Office. Clearly, these platforms want to use the consumers’ emotions to hook them onto the shows or movies they loved back in the day.  Shows like Full House, Stranger Things and Glow, which portray the 70s and 80s, induce nostalgia in the older generation’s minds. Along with this, Kate Bush’s Running up the Hill became a hit and Gen Z favorite because of its nostalgic and catchy tune. 

Nostalgia marketing can be done in various ways for the economic growth of a company, introducing a product with old features, bringing back an old product or bringing back trends from previous generations.  This provides emotional satisfaction to the customers, which leads them to invest more in such goods and services. Being one of the best ways to generate revenue for a corporation, the ‘power of memory’ is something brands are taking advantage of to draw in customers. Accenture conducted a research and discovered that around 43% of successful companies use nostalgia marketing to boost their revenue. 

Impact of Nostalgia Marketing

Capitalizing emotions of consumers is what corporations now do to delve into niche audiences. Reunions, reboots and sequels are what companies are doing to capitalize on the success of the original. Take, for example, the Friends reunion; television companies are cashing in on the trend of our longing to relive the past.  The reunion, “Friends 25th: The One with The Anniversary”,  conjured up $2.9 million in box office receipts and sold 38,000 tickets in 3 hours. Corporations stand to make a lot of money by creating the experiences of childhood and then selling them back to consumers in the form of t-shirts, toys and collectables. As the 1990s and 2000s are coming back into popular culture, the generation of the time has grown up and has the disposable income to spend on goods and services companies market for nostalgic value. Everything from fashion to beauty to music is being marketed heavily by corporations, and we can see the results with the millennial generation romanticizing and reminiscing about their childhoods. Nostalgia binds an entire generation together. 

There are various ways through which companies leverage nostalgia. One of these instances is when Coca-Cola rebrands every year during Christmas when they bring back their 1930s design. Another example is Burger King, which proved to be one of the most successful rebrands back to ‘when it looked its best’, paying homage to its olden days. Additionally, brands use nostalgia as a way to set forth a change in business direction. Lastly, companies market nostalgia by celebrating anniversaries or when completing a milestone. For their 125th anniversary, Emerson did the same by launching a marketing campaign for its STEM education courses. This capitalized their brand both among employees as well as external customers. 

The future for nostalgia marketing

However, nostalgia marketing has its own set of disadvantages. Nostalgia can be received in various manners across all generations. Different age groups will react differently to rebranding or advertisements released by companies, as a singular marketing strategy can only be equally effective with some. In addition, nostalgia can, at times, prevent other goals of a particular brand. In today’s time, technology and innovation are running industries, and while nostalgia has its own benefits, it can sometimes hinder the brand’s overall development. 

Nostalgia has been scientifically proven to impact consumers’ behaviors. Campaigns using nostalgia marketing connect with individuals at an emotional level. Nostalgia is a universal feeling that has a powerful hold on individuals and when used in the correct manner, can be an efficient way to market goods or services. Therefore, brands need to create a connection between their product and the audiences, and nostalgia is a great way forward. 


Schrieberg, Ethan. (2019, September 20). Leveraging Nostalgia (or Why Netflix Spent $500 Million on Seinfeld). Spiceworks. Retrieved December 21, 2022, from

Friedman, Lauren. (2016, August 2). Why Nostalgia Marketing Works So Well With Millennials, And How Your Brand Can Benefit. Forbes. Retrieved December 21, 2022, from

Admin. (2022, January 26). Leveraging Nostalgia for Marketing Success. BaerPM. Retrieved December 21, 2022, from

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: Some of the Best Nostalgic Rebrands. (2019, October 31). RetroMash. Retrieved December 21, 2022, from

Battaglio, Stephen. (2022, February 18). ‘Friends’ is the gift that keeps on giving to WarnerMedia. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 22, 2022, from

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Eric says:

    Reblogged this on Calculus of Decay and commented:


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