2022’s biggest trend: taking consumers back in time

2022’s biggest trend: taking consumers back in time

5th February 2022
Brand CommunicationsThoughts & Insights

Tamagotchis and Pokemon are must-haves again… Carrie Bradshaw and Tony Soprano are back on screens… and the ‘When We Were Young’ festival of 00s emo bands sold out in seconds. You might think someone has finally invented the time machine, but in fact, creators, producers and brands are embracing one of 2022’s biggest trends: nostalgia.

According to consumer research from Brand Watch, public online mentions of this term rose from just under 600k, to a peak of 1 million through 2021 – and they’re still riding high. The pandemic made us all long for a simpler time, so we started to look back. Nostalgia is so powerful because it delivers ROI by giving consumers exactly what they want: comfort, safety and warmth.

Of all audiences, Millennials are particularly receptive to nostalgia as a marketing technique. This is a generation that’s not only dealt with COVID, but come of age through two recessions and the wake of 9/11 – so it’s easy to see why they might revel in going back to their childhood.

Consumers aged 25-44 are most likely to enjoy things that remind them of their past.


This explains the huge popularity of 90s and 00s throwbacks, but also highlights an important consideration for nostalgic marketing. If brands want to market to a wider audience, it’s vital they don’t alienate certain generations by focusing on others. But that’s not to say only consumers who remember the specific time periods will be receptive. Consumers aged 18-24 (AKA Gen Z) are the least likely to show interest in aspects of their past, but are still embracing the 90s and 00s trends as something new. The best examples of nostalgic marketing address the audiences of the time, as well as those open to the past as an attractive concept.

Looking at previous examples of nostalgic campaigns, there are three approaches brands most often take:

  • Inspiration

Perhaps the most accessible, this method involves using features of a specific decade to form the basis of the creative. We saw several campaigns of this nature last year, including Lipton’s 90s sitcom spots, Mountain Dew’s unashamedly 80s Gamerobics and Pizza Hut’s similarly iconic Pac Man Boxes.

  • Reinvention

An effective way to appeal to audiences old and new is to give something existing a new lease of life. For example, last year Pepsi celebrated Grease’s 50th anniversary with a new version of the film’s biggest hit,’You’re the One that I Want’. The 2021 update put singer Doja Cat in a familiar 50s setting with her own Pink Ladies and T Birds, while creating a new sound with added rap.

  • Resurrection

As audiences become increasingly receptive to the past, brands are delving into their own history books to bring back beloved products, logos or campaigns. We’ve seen Burger King return to its simpler logoof the 70s, 80s and 90s, and Budweiser release the Quarantine version of ‘Whassupp’, but the most interesting example of resurrection is the ‘Berries and Cream’ phenomenon. Starburst released this flavour back in 2007, accompanied by a zany advert featuring the ‘Little Lad’ and a catchy song. This inspired many YouTube remixes at the time, but nothing compared to the exposure it gained when Tik Tok got hold of it (300 million views of #berriesandcream, to be exact.) So many creators developed their own version of the song and brought the company back to prominence – illustrating how campaigns can be resurrected and reinvented by online audiences.

It’s clear why nostalgia is an effective tool within a marketing campaign. But as we’ve seen, it’s vital to take the right approach to avoid alienating any consumer. Speak to us about how your brand can tap into this trend for 2022, and we’ll help you develop a campaign that takes audiences back in time.

Helen Kennedy
Article by Helen Kennedy

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