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Nostalgia marketing is used by brands to gain new and but also capture the hearts of loyal customers. This strategy is one that often goes unnoticed. However, if done correctly, it can be extremely profitable, resulting in the resurrecting of dying brands. This essay will discuss how confectionary brands use nostalgia as a way to market products. It will also aim to explore the psychological experience involved in nostalgic feelings and what effect this has on the consumer—determining how they build relationships with brands over their lifetime.
In definition, nostalgia is ‘A positively toned evocation of a lived past’ or ‘A sentimental or bittersweet yearning for experience, product, or service from the past’. Similarly nostalgia marketing is aimed to evoke a feeling of sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time triggering all the senses.
The word ‘nostalgia’ consists of two Greek words, nostos meaning – returning home, algos translating to pain. ‘The pain a sick person feels because he wishes to return to his native land, and fears never to see it again.’ The term was adopted in 1688 by Johannes Hofer, a Swiss medical student. This neologism was so successful that people forgot its origin. Most often, Homesickness is given usually as a synonym for nostalgia.
Brands often use this strategy to create bonds and attachments with their customers to specific products or ranges. Usually meaning brands are withdrawing a product from the market, and reinstating it at a later date to evoke these feelings, thus increasing sales and also advertising. Potentially, this means the customer feels like they have missed out on the product for so long. They are suggesting that when it returns to shops, customers can reminisce about its previous place in their lives. Thus all of the memories associated with the product return, creating a long-standing bond between not only customer and product but trust between customer and brand.
If we look at Holbrook’ Nostalgia and consumption preferences’, he discusses nostalgia proneness as a psychological attribute. The feeling of nostalgia may seem simple in definition, but it is rooted in mental understanding. To explain the origin of nostalgia and how it affects consumers, we must first analyse the connection between nostalgia and human emotions—thus determining how it can then be used to connect customers to a brand and its products.
Recent research implies that people are more likely to become attached to brands that remind them of the past and experiences that trigger memories. Meaning that there is a definitive emotional connection with past and present memories that, in turn, create what we know as ‘nostalgia.’ Particular possessions, in this case, confectionary products, reestablish the events and feelings that one experienced in the past. Nostalgia proneness has shown an impact on preferences from consumers toward products from the past Holbrook.
Brands are considered as playing a roll in the journey of constructing a person’s identity in the sense of what they choose to consume and how they use this in social and personal situations, which can even apply in adult life. Research shows a correlation between the goods a person consumes over their lifetime. Meaning their likelihood to purchase the same brands going into adult life and passing it on to another generation is a lot higher than brands they consume with no emotional connection.
If we look at Cadburys Wispa as an example, the Wispa chocolate bar launched in 1981 as a trial version in the North East of England. It was later launched nationally due to success in 1983. In 2003 Cadbury chose to discontinue the Wispa bar and instead replace it with ‘Dairy Milk Bubble. ‘ It was similar in taste but different in shape and packaging. Customers were not happy with the transition, an ad campaign on social media formed to reinstate it.
Looking further, there are many examples of products that one can relate to one’s past. Confectionary brands are an excellent example to use as most of these brands have been with us our whole lives, and most likely, with our parents and their parents, this is known as brand heritage. Naturally, it is when a brand is passed through generations of people, encouraging them also to use this brand, which in theory then passed through many generations. This is how bonds begin to form with brands; it usually takes place throughout childhood; when we don’t have a choice in what we consume, due to parents or guardians having control over shopping trips and budgets.
Starting by looking at Kinder and similar names, they use nostalgia to expand their target and create a link between generations. We can see this just by looking at their slogans. ‘Kinder… created for kids, ideal for everyone’ and ‘Haribo makes children happy and adults too’. Many of their advertisements also feature adults and children and portraying adults in the way of bringing our their ‘inner child.’ These brands can use nostalgic tendencies to capture one’s attention throughout their lives consistently. Developments in online marketing and advertisement have made this increasingly easier. Nutella has dedicated a chat room on the Internet so its consumers can share ‘childhood memories and good times’. Encouraging them to share these nostalgic memories and then find new ways to market them to their intended audience.
Kessous and Roux discuss the brand’s ability to use this emotion is somewhat tactile but allows them to recognise the strength of nostalgia to transmit an image that is authentic, durable, a guarantee of quality to the consumer and to recreate emotions linked to the past. French author Proust understood that nostalgia as a concept was ‘A quest for lost time’. When putting it so directly, it becomes easier to understand this complex emotion. That these bonds that create the simple human need to want what we do not have, or what we once had.
It is important to remember at this stage that every person’s memory is different, and we attach emotions to things and people uniquely. Meaning we can often remember things differently to a sibling who may have experienced the same thing at the same time. This limbo can fit into the realm of ‘Hyperreality.’ Hyperreality is an inability to distinguish reality from a simulation of reality. Hyperreality is a condition in which what is real and what is fiction seamlessly blends, so there is no clear distinction between where one ends and the other begins. It allows the cohabitation of physical reality with virtual reality.
It can be said that when our memories do not seem to match up to others who have similar visual representations of the same thing in the case of a brand or product. It is possible to apply the theory of hyperreality and stimulated nostalgia in the sense that it is what the brand wants to create a long-standing connection, as this, in turn, creates loyalty to the brand. Still, to the consumer, this version of something exists in their realm, people choose to adapt and interpret it into their experiences; however, they need at the time.
An example of this would be a person who has a long-standing connection and nostalgic devotion to Nutella. They grew up with this brand and are fond of it still. Another person in this household also brought up with this brand, has negative connotations associated with it. It could be because they understood the financial burden of luxury products such as Nutella on the family. Hypothetically this happens, though often without our understanding. It is not that a person does not enjoy the brand. However, their memories have constructed around an individual perception of it.
Hyperreality is very powerful in the sense that a lot of the things we experience transpire from the hyperreal ability that our brains have to blur what is real and what is simply a construct and projection of our emotions at a specific time. Essentially this makes the brand connection to be built on feelings that may not be real and may not exist anymore. However, the bond still stands because this is what nostalgia makes us feel, more often the want for the past rather than the negative connotations we associated with it over time.
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