Why Nostalgia Works in Advertising

Ever look at an old photograph and remember the scents and sounds? Ever wanted to go back in time to relive a moment? Do certain smells bring up childhood memories? If you answered “yes” to any of those you might have been feeling nostalgic.

What Is Nostalgia?

“Nostalgia is a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.”

Nostalgia is such a powerful emotion that it was actually considered a neurological disease in the 17th century.

Why Nostalgia Works in Advertising

There are many reasons why nostalgia is so effective in advertising here are a few:

  1. We tend to remember things as better than they actually were
    Our brain tends to remember situations better than they actually were. For example, you might think to yourself “I remember Middle School, no bills, no work, I didn’t have a care in the world.” However, you forget how boring it was sitting in a desk 30+ hours a week.
  2. We believe that everything (brand in this case) is the norm
    Growing up we think what happens in our household is the norm. When you first move out of your house you tend to buy the same brands that you grew up with. If you drank Pepsi at home you are more likely to purchase Pepsi than Coca-Cola when you’re out on your own.
  3. Nostalgia helps humanize brands by connecting the past and present
    Having internet years ago was revolutionary but smartphones took everything to another level. Everything is so virtual that it is nice to see images and videos on the internet that were created before smartphones took our time over. Suddenly the old feels “real”.

What Makes it Nostalgic?

Old Logos

We see old logos all the time. Does anyone remember the pepsi “throwback” sodas made with real sugar? I bet you that made you think about the “good ole days” the “good ole days” when you weren’t even born yet.

It might have also made you feel like Pepsi went from being this big corporate brand to something more “human”.

Old Ad

Old Image by VFR Photography, edited by Mustafa.

Old Fonts

Certain fonts are associated with certain time periods. So certain brands will create their throwback ads with certain fonts that are familiar to people that have seen ads from that era.

Old Editing

It’s the year 2016 and some photographers are choosing to use film over digital when they learned to shoot on digital. Instagram was originally an app that made your photos look “retro”. I can almost guarantee that none of us have gone 2 weeks without seeing a “washed-out” image on the internet.

Queen of Nostalgia

Creating this post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the queen of nostalgia, Lana Del Rey! I love Lana Del Rey and when I first started listening to her I thought she was going for that 1950’s Americana style (personal brand). I then noticed that she would also reference the 70’s, 80’s and other eras. Many of her lyrics take us back and forth like in her song “video games”.


I hope this helps demystify why you want to take polaroid shots of your retro jordans while playing super nintendo. If you have any requests for the next blog let me know and I’ll make it happen.