Nostalgia Marketing in the Era of COVID

by | Jun 28, 2019 | Content Marketing

Most of us understand the bittersweet joy of nostalgia. Nostalgia marketing is when businesses and organizations capture that feeling of blissful remembrance with an eye toward the future. For it to work in your marketing strategy, you must find the balance between what pulls the heartstrings in a way that sells and what parts of the past we should leave behind – like orange shag carpet.

However, nostalgia marketing in January 2020 is a lot different than in August 2020. The pandemic has changed our pining for the past. Before, the ache of home was different for each of us. Now, we are all longing for the same things we took for granted just months ago – birthday parties, concerts, a trip to see grandparents.

Businesses trying to leverage nostalgia marketing in today’s world have quite a tightrope to walk. They must remind clients of the joy of the past, without treating that past like it will never happen again. They can’t use the past as something to long for, if this is, indeed, our new normal. And they must find a way to talk about the present as positive; no one wants to pay an organization that makes them feel blue or reminds them of hardship. For some people, nostalgia becomes a way to cope with an excess of change.

Examples of Nostalgia Marketing for the Pandemic

It’s early days, but a few businesses are standing out in their post COVID marketing. Consider the following powerful marketing messages that use the past without making us fear the future.

Nike’s You Can’t Stop Us Campaign

Stitching together archival footage with a powerful message of hope and inclusion, Nike’s video sets the standard for nostalgia marketing that celebrates who we once were without diminishing who we will be. Brilliantly done without selling a thing, this ad boosts its brand by spreading a new kind of message.

Apple’s Creativity Goes On Video

Apple’s marketing has always been on point, but this video encourages creativity in solitude. It takes things the world is doing anyway – chatting with friends, dancing, or doing a photoshoot for a baby – and adds messages of encouragement. It’s familiar because it’s ordinary; it’s extraordinary because it shows us how to do these things while embracing social distancing.

Domino’s Delivery Business Revamp

This brief ad is nostalgic marketing at its best. Domino’s recreates Tom Cruise’s unforgettable underwear dance from Risky Business to promote its new delivery alerts that can streamline the pizza delivery process. It’s new – a new guy dancing, equipped with a smartphone – but both the music and the dance will be very familiar to anyone raised in the 1980s. The beauty of this ad is that it reaches back not just to a time before the pandemic but to a time of teen fun and rebellion.

3 Steps for Compelling Nostalgia Marketing

If your business is setting out on a nostalgia marketing plan, understanding the delicate messaging of pining for the past while embracing something new is crucial. Here are a few tips to ensure you do it right.

  • Know Your Target Audience. If we know anything from COVID life, it’s that what feels like nostalgia for GenXers will be a lot different than what it feels like for young millennials and Gen Z. Businesses should invest in understanding their target audience for their entire marketing campaign. Use that knowledge in your nostalgia marketing plan. If your campaign is triggering nostalgia in baby boomers who don’t buy your product or service, then your hard work may be wasted.


  • Craft Content for the Future. It sounds contradictory, but you can’t romanticize the past unless you have some idea of what to expect for the future. Rotary phones aren’t selling on eBay because of their use – fewer items have been created that have such poor user experience. It’s only in the digital era, where smartphones are the norm, that a rotary phone would have value. And you can only measure that worth in memory. Our favorite memories from today will focus on social gatherings and travels – things that seem impossible now. Imagine a way your business or organization can either solve this ache or be a balm until we all can meet again.



  • Give Room for Your Art to Change. Change can be a challenge, but we all have to embrace it sometimes. Be true to your brand while embracing change; it shows your customers that you can evolve with the times. Without changing your website’s graphics or logo too much, consider how to transform it. Perhaps use a font that is recognizable from the past or an old-school color combination. The trick is to ensure your voice is consistent and your brand is recognizable, but all with subtle changes that could highlight bygone eras.

Contact Better Content Matters for Help

At BCM, we understand nostalgia marketing. We also know that it can help your business write content that builds on such a campaign. We can:

  • Write content that embraces the past and is encouraging about the future.
  • Craft social media posts that reflect bygone eras while offering hope for tomorrow.
  • Create headlines that work for today with a wink to yesterday.

How you plan your nostalgia marketing depends on your industry. However you do it, trust us to write quality content that builds your marketing strategy and transitions between the not-so-distant past and the new normal that feels not normal at all.


Alisa Hummell

Alisa Hummell

Alisa Hummell began her career teaching at Northern Michigan University but found she missed putting pen to paper. She began Better Content Matters with Christie Moll and Kimberlee Henry. Together, they were dedicated to covering a gap in marketing to include boutique writing services that helped clients with their SEO while crafting language that spoke to people – and not just bots. In the wake of AI, that need has grown ever more important.