Branding Atavism and the Nostalgia Buy

Nostalgia can often be a factor in consumers’ relationships with brands. Now more than ever, companies in a wide range of categories are openly exploring the brand relationships consumers remember and love from childhood. We first saw this trend with sporting goods apparel in the form of sports team jerseys and hats. Then, automotive companies such as Ford went retro with their vehicle styling. Now, consumer goods and food are joining in — General Mills is releasing collectors editions of classic cereal boxes and Pepsi Co. announced the upcoming launch of Throwback Pepsi and Mountain Dew. The Throwback products will return to the classic logo on the packaging, and the mixture will be made with real sugar — a test to see if consumers are really interested in a more “pure” alternative to high fructose corn syrup.

In addition to formulaic and stylistic nods, the emotional connection with the customer is an added incentive to instigate a purchase — beyond existing brand loyalty. In addition to visual appeal, there is often an emotional “must have” moment where consumers are compelled to purchase the packaging as a perceived collector’s item.

But not all companies can jump on the retro bandwagon. If a company lacks history, a retro approach will not be authentic and the brand can feel like a novelty item. Few businesses have decades of history to work from, but for those that do the idea of nostalgic branding has become a viable reality. Throwback editions are becoming a new means of communicating a company’s longevity and history — while seeming progressive and hip at the same time.