This is Why Nostalgic Back to School Campaigns Win

Fanny packs and scrunchies: two accessories we never thought we’d see come back into style. Alas, they have. It may be Gen Z icons like Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid who first donned these fashions. But, unlike trends of the past, celebrity adoption isn’t what brought them into widespread use. It’s also knowing their moms rocked them back in the day. An article for The Washington Post gives us insight into why that matters. It tells us that Gen Z isn’t “deliberately focused” on ‘80s and ‘90s fashions. Instead, a representative of the Reeboks Classics unit – think the basic white “Club C” style of the ‘80s – attributes nostalgia to these throwbacks. She says, “With all the noise that comes at kids, I think there is something comforting and that feels good about buying something that you know your parents knew.” It’s what an Entrepreneur article dubs “fauxstalgia” – the longing for a time in the past, even though you’ve never experienced that time. This longing gets to the core of why nostalgia marketing will win back to school campaigns this summer.

Why Gen Z Yearns for the Things of Their Parents’ Youths

The crowd at this summer’s New Kids on the Block “MixTape Tour” wasn’t only full of ‘80s kids. An article recounts that “plenty of school-aged girls jumped in their seats with their moms”. This included the author’s two nieces who, during the show, shared their experiences via FaceTime calls and Tik Tok videos. Still, we can’t point a finger at Gen Z for overuse of technology in the digital age. 

While we lecture kids about their use of devices, kids are actually concerned about their parents’ fixation with their own. A non-profit dedicated to educating youth on appropriate online behaviors shares that kids feel it’s “hard to compete for their parents’ attention and time” versus technology. And, this leaves them “sad, frustrated, or lonely”. It could be why a recent study finds Gen Z unconcerned with getting ‘likes’ on social media and why they make time with family and friends their highest priority. One smart way to connect with their Gen X parents is through the latter’s nostalgia for all things ‘80s and ‘90s. More brands are working to help bridge the divide and are winning business in the process.

Nostalgia marketing

The Role Brands Play in Bringing Together Gen X and Gen Z Through Nostalgia Marketing

“In our shared experiences and collective memories are universal feelings and timeless themes that transcend generations.” – from an Entrepreneur article

Nostalgia marketing has become increasingly common as more brands see its impact on consumers. One key benefit: it removes a barrier to spending. In fact, a study by the Journal of Consumer Research finds people are “more likely to spend money when we’re feeling nostalgic.” Some are even likely to spend more money than usual when recalling a memory.

To get in on the action, some brands, like Reebok, will combine nostalgia marketing with digital marketing. Assuming the mere 35 percent of people who won’t skip ads view your ad, you have the chance to reach one audience at that moment – Gen X or Gen Z, since they likely won’t be surfing the internet together. But, this defeats the purpose when working to help them connect. The goal is to get them off their devices, which is best – and only – accomplished in pairing nostalgia marketing with experiential events. 

Combining the two mediums lets parents and kids share an experience, which gives both groups positive memories and strengthens their bonds. These results not only translate to intimacy for participants, but also brand intimacy. Yet, the key to providing the best experience for Gen Z is to use the old, but also infuse something new. This is known as “newstalgia”, per the Entrepreneur article. It gives the example of adding “faux-vintage, grainy filters” to Instagram photos, making something new look old.

Brands That Know How to Do Nostalgic Experiential Events Right

Such was the case with Volkswagen at the 2018 New York International Auto Show. In its expo space, the auto brand known for its iconic VW Beetle hung “oversized, framed family photos”. These resembled Polaroids beloved by people old and young. 

Toy brand Hot Wheels also combined nostalgia marketing with experiential at an auto show. The event was the Canadian International Autoshow, where Hot Wheels celebrated its 50th year. Older fans of the brand liked seeing one of the original 16 releases and even taking part in a collector’s meetup. Gen Z got access to a kids’ Play Zone. And together, families could enjoy a custom, life-size track, among other activations.

Wheels were also involved in Limited Too’s nostalgic activation, but in the form of a mobile pop-up shop. The place to go for girls fashion in the ‘90s, the brand hit the streets of New York City for five days in early August. In its 500+ square feet, moms got to relive their youth. And, their daughters were able to shop the online retailer’s trendy offerings in person – and just in time for back to school. 

Why Back to School Campaigns are the Perfect Opportunity for Nostalgia Marketing

Limited Too’s timing – the first weekend of August – was perfect to reach its target audiences. RetailMeNot names that weekend the second peak shopping day of the season, which kicks off in July. Yet, it’s official start isn’t until Amazon “Prime Day,” making July 15 the first peak day of the 2019 season. It also makes it a great time for back to school campaigns to begin.

Parents plan to spend 10 percent more this year than they did in 2018, for an average of $507 each. Yet, it’s important to note that parents alone aren’t making the decisions. Ninety-three percent of parents say their children influence spending. A Forbes article tells this means “a significant portion of overall market spend is because of these youths.” An Inc article goes on to point out that Gen Z’s purchasing power expands from $44 billion to $600 billion when controlling the family’s purse strings. This means marketers can’t afford to neglect this influential audience who will be out with their parents to spend a lot of money very soon. Three-fourths of retailers have already committed to spending more money for their back to school campaigns this year, heating up the competition early. With the last peak holiday falling on Labor Day, there’s still time to plan nostalgic experiential events and win over parents and kids alike.

Elevate is the promotional staffing agency you need to make the grade with back to school campaigns. Our brand ambassadors, product specialists and other event staff know how to connect with people of all ages to make memories. Contact us!

Author: Kelly Springs-Kelley

Kelly Springs-Kelley is the Marketing Director at Elevate Staffing. When she's not creating content or pondering the future of in-person consumer engagement, Kelly can be found hiking the mountains of Arizona with her 2 kids and 3 dogs.

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