How to Use Nostalgia to Engage Your Social Media Audience

Remember getting your first bicycle or hearing your favorite song for the first time? These specific moments were so significant to you at that moment that they echo on throughout your life, with ripples of meaning and importance in their wake. This phenomenon is called nostalgia, and, though we all experience it to some degree each and every day, it can be pretty difficult to describe in words.

But between its readily accessible nature (a New York Times Science article referred to it as ‘A Universal Feeling’) and its wholly positive effect (one study actually found a correlation between nostalgia and optimism), nostalgia can, if used correctly, prove to be a very powerful marketing tool. The content that identifies with a consumer’s present can often be fleeting, whereas the content that identifies with a consumer’s past can often hold significance beyond imagining.

You may think that this fondness for the past requires quite a bit of past to be fond of, or, in other words, that you’ve got to be old to be subject to nostalgia. But you’d be surprised to know that millennials are among the hungriest demographic for the retro, the vintage, or the classic. This boom in ‘early-onset nostalgia’ has led to a marketing revolution, wherein brands are doing whatever it takes to give the people a taste of the past.

So, how do we pull off the marketing miracle of evoking nostalgia? Let’s take a look at a few brands that are doing it well.


A brand that is practically oozing nostalgia (despite its relative newness) is the famed Detroit watchmaker, Shinola. With a name purchased from a turn-of-the-century shoeshine brand and a watch design indicative of mid-century modern aesthetics, this less-than-a-decade old company has gone to some considerable lengths to give consumers a brand reminiscent of a domestic wartime manufacturer. Perhaps more than anything else, Shinola levers the city in which it has set up shop: Detroit, Michigan. A once-great metropolis, Detroit itself is a point of nostalgic reminder for all those now enthralled by the possibility of sparking a phoenix-like rise from the ashes. Even its purposeful tagline, “Built in Detroit,” urges consumers to remember the good old days when things really were built in Detroit.


When you think of technology, it’s unlikely that your first thought will involve some fondness for what’s come before. Most tech consumers are always looking ahead to the next big innovation. Despite this phenomenon, Lenovo (#Client) has managed to not only keep its audience relishing its state-of-the-art, hot-off-the-line ThinkPad models, but it has also managed to cultivate a diehard community of ThinkPad enthusiasts that refuse to forget the predecessors that have made their beloved current model possible. Understanding the quarter-century of techno-genealogy, and emphasizing its importance to the Lenovo product line, has led to an audience that widely embraces the ThinkPad models that have come before, and which have paved the way for the cutting edge tech that Lenovo offers today.


While there are plenty of brands out there doing a fine job of evoking nostalgia in their audiences, who could possibly do it better than everyone’s favorite childhood building blocks? Founded in 1932, Lego has built (no pun intended) a dynasty in the realm of children’s toys, and now, some three generations later, has plenty of nostalgic material to help its audience remember some childhood success story, some bygone cultural phenomenon, or even simply a universal historical monument. The latter was executed strategically on Tumblr, by allowing Lego architects the opportunity to build and showcase feats of impressive Lego prowess, like the Great Pyramids, the Golden Gate Bridge, and, perhaps most notably, the Death Star. Demonstrating what their product is capable of – not just physically, but sentimentally, too – has granted the Lego audience something beyond mere pieces of interlocking plastic. It’s given them a piece of their past back.

So, whether nostalgia is being evoked on a post-by-post basis (i.e., your #TBTs, your #FlashbackFridays or the often embarrassing Timehop app) or across a vast, macro-branding mission, it’s clearly got some staying power. Whether a brand’s authenticity has been earned through decades or invented recently to inspire a new generation of consumers, strategically playing on the subtleties of prior experience and the comfort of fond memories will almost always produce a favorable outcome.

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