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Why Nostalgia Sells

Why using nostalgia in marketing works so well

Zapriana Atanassova is a digital copywriter at Arc Interactive. Today she takes a look at why nostalgia marketing is so popular and what psychological needs it appeals to in convincing consumers to part with their hard-earned money.

Have you noticed a recent trend of old-school designs in, well, just about everything? From cars to phone cases, music to fashion, nostalgic elements from eras long since passed have been gaining a lot of attention- and making a lot of money. So, why the appeal? What is it about these vintage designs that make consumers (admittedly, myself included) pay more for products and services?

Dissatisfaction with the current state of things

It’s no secret that part of the human condition involves the constant looking toward either the past or the future. However, much of the future we’ve been imagining is already a reality. We have facial recognition, holograms, and hoverboards (kind of). Sure, we don’t have flying cars yet, but even that is in the works. If a technological advancement comes occasionally, it’s exciting. But when there’s a new gadget every second, it can become trite. So, when looking to the future seems boring (or if you’ve been listening to Elon Musk’s predictions, downright terrifying) then what’s left? Only the past.

Yearning for a simpler time

We’re missing a simpler time. Well, my generation is at least. Hyper-connectivity is all we’ve ever known- we’ve grown up with technology developing so quickly that we can’t keep track of it. We’re missing dirt, mud, letting our hair down, Woodstock- you get the point.

We’re missing the freedom of being off the grid and truly disconnecting. This longing has ironically inspired a lot of current trends in fashion, music and more. It has clearly been capitalised on as well- think flower crowns being mass produced, or festivals such as Coachella charging upwards of $429 for tickets.

Romance and poetry

We want to remember the most beautiful moments from history, preserving the positive memories in a capsule much like a rose under a glass case. The success of singer/songwriter Lana Del Rey is one of my favourite examples of the Millennial and Generation Z love of nostalgia. Her music adds a modern twist to olden-day Hollywood elegance, and because of this, she’s become an icon in her own right.

It is also true that history repeats itself, and that there are certain things that will always appeal to us, regardless of the generation we happen to be born in. We can appreciate musicians like the modern Adele, just as much as the legendary Ella Fitzgerald.

The same thinking can be applied to vintage styles we see in modern life. A few examples of brands utilising old-school designs are Smeg’s domestic appliances or the modern Fiat 500 range, whose design is inspired by the retro icon of the same name.

It can often take time for current designs to build up a personality- retro designs, on the other hand, have had plenty of time to age into something iconic.


Much like having a home-cooked meal or smelling a scent that reminds you of your mother’s perfume, nostalgia makes us feel safe. That feeling of familiarity and comfort is one we’re constantly after, and phone covers that look like NES controllers are partially an extension of that.

The feeling of warmth and comfort is one that we’re always seeking, whether we’re conscious of it or not. Modern gadgets that have a technological edge appeal to our need for efficiency and status.

However, nostalgia sells amazingly well because it speaks to a universal desire for happiness and contentment- these powerful emotions are present in every consumer.

Recommended reading

Don't believe us? Then check out our article on - 6 Nostalgia Marketing Products That Pull Our Heart Strings

For more information, visit You can also follow Arc Interactive on Facebook, Twitter or on Instagram.

About the author

Zapriana Atanassova is a digital copywriter with a passion for creativity and communication. Majoring in Journalism and International Studies wasn’t stressful enough for her, so during her time at varsity she worked with Monash South Africa, Africa Investor and the Show Time Film Club to improve their online presence.

In her spare time, she enjoys writing poetry, making music and talking about the universe. She’s the newest addition to the Arc Interactive team- a digital marketing agency based in Sandton, Johannesburg.

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