By: Jim McCune
Many beer brands have recognized the value of “nostalgia marketing” by tapping into our fondest childhood memories to sell more.
But What is Nostalgia?
It’s a human emotion defined as “a sentimental longing, or affection for the past”.
As we grow older, we develop fond memories of our younger days. From the food, candy, and ice cream we ate, the events we attended, the music we listened to, the video games we played, the clothes and sneakers we wore, to the TV shows we watched.
Your experiences from your past, form your personality and identity today.
Scientific research has proven that nostalgia is a powerful feeling that provides a pleasant effect to both mind and body, and the natural phenomenon is sometimes referred to as the “warm and fuzzies”.
It seems the more we move into an age of technology and innovation, the more we enjoy revisiting a simpler past and the joyous memories that come with it.
Nostalgia can be activated at any given moment by any of our senses. A certain sound, scent, or color can trigger a nostalgic episode. Nostalgia can appear as a flashback, a vivid memory, or a wave of seemingly out-of-place emotions.
One of the reasons we love Netflix TV show “Stranger Things” is because of our desire to look back fondly on our own formative years. This show really nailed the time period of the eighties and allows viewers to relive certain aspects of their past that they enjoyed.
Nostalgia triggers emotion, and emotion activates purchase. This is why nostalgia is smart and effective marketing tactic.
Breakfast cereals, vinyl records, candy bars, gaming systems, ice cream cake, and literally everything in between. Brands are engaging beer drinkers by tapping into their positive memories from decades past in fun, innovative new ways.
Retro tactics have found their way into most marketing channels. Throwback Thursdays hashtag across social media, Facebook’s “On This Day”, and apps like Timehop now account for hundreds of millions of new photos linked to personal memories.
In a series of experiments conducted by the Journal of Consumer Science, they found that consumers who thought about “the good old days” were more willing to spend money. In contrast, less likely to spend bucks when thinking about “the present or future”.
The research study examined how nostalgia evoked feelings of connectedness and community due to childhood memories being linked to friends, family, and a sense of trust.
Other interesting findings from the study is that nostalgia is experienced at least three times a week by persons of all ages, and across all cultures.
It was also determined that most persons see their nostalgic event “through rose-colored glasses,” meaning they were revising history in their favor.
Additionally, and most interesting, persons who were exposed to extreme heat or cold found relief and comfort from these adverse states when experiencing the joy of nostalgia.
The emotional component of your brain is far more advanced than the logical side.
80% of your decision-making derives from emotion rather than logic. This is why most consumers make their purchase decision at the beer shelf based on what they see and feel.
But, 64% of this group admitted they would change their mind at the last second if “something else better” caught their eye.
Smart brands are successfully using the timeless marketing strategy to attract new drinkers by elicit the stopping power and emotion in their branding. The results have been extraordinary with the GenX and Millennial aged groups.
If you peruse the shelves of your local beer distributor, you’ll quickly see how evident, and brilliantly, nostalgic marketing is being employed by many beer brands.
Why does nostalgia resonate so well with these marketing segments?
Mainly because childhood for them during the 70s, 80s, and 90s (commercially-speaking) was all about them, and chock full of awesome. So, looking back on these days, there’s bound to be a lot of great memories.
Children born mid–1960s to 1970s were considered the first generation of children to be directly advertised to. They would be known as “Generation X” and marketers discovered that this segment was impossible to define.
Advertisers eventually discovered that although GenX children were not the purchaser, they could use them as “parental influencers”.
If they could get a kid super excited about their product, they would eventually get to the mum. Many parents reported being pestered by their children for products they saw on television. This new marketing tactic was termed “pester power”.
The result was an onslaught of exciting new youth products advertised directly to kids during their Saturday morning cartoons, movies, comic books, video games, and beyond.
The pester era was fueled by a major surge in birthrates during the 80s and 90s that ushered in the new marketing segment, known as “Generation Y” aka Millennials.
Studies at the time estimated children spent an average of 28 hours per week watching TV and playing video games which exposed them to approximately 20,000 ads a year.
During these 3 decades the youth market became expansive and accelerated economic growth around the globe to the tune of $250 billion today.
Millennials were also a big part of the craft beer boom. Over the past eight years, as this age group reached legal drinking age of 21, the craft brewing industry experienced its most significant growth.
Millennials were labeled the “Peter Pan Generation” due to their tendency to delay “Adulting” for longer than any generation prior.
So, it’s no wonder, if a beer brand could leverage favorable memories from our childhood and evoke these warm–fuzzy feelings that allow us to suspend our disbelief for a few moments, that we’re actually adults … you’ve likely made the sale already.
You’ll also forge a meaningful connection with this consumer at an extremely–emotional level that results in brand loyalty (a consumer quality that hardly exists in beer today).
An alcohol watchdog group recently reported that consumer complaints were stacking-up. As increasing numbers of beer brands rollout nostalgia in their marketing, more cases are being upheld because their label “appears to be aimed at kids” or “encourages immoderate consumption.”
It’s been urged that breweries, marketers, and designers tread more carefully with the design of their retro packaging that depicts candy, toys, and cartoons. Ensuring the alcoholic nature of their beverage is communicated clearly, and when appealing to one’s inner child, not going too far to inadvertently appeal to a child.
Check out these 5 beer brands that did great jobs using nostalgic marketing:
1. Captain Lawrence Brewing Company of New York collaborated with Carvel Ice Cream to make “Fudgie the Beer” a 6.0% ABV beer brewed with Carvel signature chocolate crunchies, fudge and ice cream from their famous cake. Fudgie the Beer has smooth creamy cocoa notes with a roasted crunchies finish. (https://fudgiethebeer.com)
This innovative concept worked so well, Captain Lawrence Brewing extended the line with Cookie O’Puss St. Patrick’s Day Beer, and Cookie Puss Birthday beer.
2. Virginia-based brewing company Smartmouth is releasing a “magically delicious” IPA with all the warm and fuzzies. “Saturday Morning” is a throwback to the early mornings in front of the TV watching cartoons in your pajamas eating your favorite cereal. Smartmouth brewed with Lucky Charms-inspired marshmallows. (https://smartmouthbrewing.com/beers)
3. 450 North Brewing Co. of Indiana is pushing the envelope with an extensive line of mouth-watering retro packaging. Peanut butter cups, ice slushes, fruity and cocoa pebbles, firecrackers, French toast sticks, rocket popsicles, marshmallows, Nintendo games, tacos, and anything else you loved as a kid is represented. (https://www.instagram.com/450northbrewing)
4. Two of America’s iconic beverage brands, Harpoon Brewery and Dunkin’ of Massachusetts collaborated on a limited-edition 6% ABV Coffee Porter. The co-brew combines the taste of Dunkin’s Espresso Blend Coffee with Harpoon’s famous craft beer for a balanced and smooth brew offering robust and roasty notes. (https://www.harpoonbrewery.com/beer/dunkin-coffee-porter)
Harpoon and Dunkin’ just released a bright, summery follow-up brew with “Dunkin’ Summer Coffee Pale Ale” at 5% ABV.
5. California’s Altamont Beer Works has an extensive line of cool–looking brews. They left no childhood stone unturned with their heady, and retro plays. Catty Shack, My Little Pony, Grand Theft Auto, NKOTB, Crunch Berry Cereal, to The Dude. (https://altamontbeerworks.com/1/beers)
Nostalgia is a positive emotion. It’s more than a passive flashback to our yesteryear, it has strong implications of our future. It temporarily alleviates discomfort of our present and provides much needed motivation to head into our future.
Like any trend that’s rediscovered and overused, nostalgia marketing will eventually be met with skepticism and quietly fade away, only to return again when today is tomorrow.
Jim McCune is director of the Craft Beverage Division of Melville-based EGC Group.
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