Nostalgia Marketing: How Nintendo Succeeds by Recycling the Past

nostalgia marketing

Nostalgia is a rare but powerful way to manipulate consumer emotions to sell a product. Reliving one’s past is a very challenging sentiment for companies to replicate. They usually reproduce those emotions with either the revival of long absent products or a modern reimagining of their brand. Both methods achieve varying measures of success. However, it is Nintendo’s recent strategies that place them at the top of the pack when it comes to nostalgia marketing.

More than 75 million “millennials” (born between 1980 and 2000) make up America's consumer base. It’s a significant number for a demographic known as influencers. This group of buyers have become an important target for many companies and, in particular, the key for success in nostalgia marketing.

What is Nostalgia Marketing?

Most children of the ‘80s can reminisce over the fun and excitement they had while playing Nintendo on their tube television for hours on end either after school or on the weekends. While impractical to revive the original Nintendo gaming system, which was dependent on RCA cables and book-sized cartridges, Nintendo did the next best thing. In November 2016, they released the NES Classic Edition, a smaller replica of the original system with 30 built-in games, replica controllers, and modern features. Eighties children can once again play the games of their youth but on flat screen high-definition televisions!

At $79.99 (CAD) a unit, Nintendo sold 1.5 million units by December 2016 and are nearly impossible to find at retailers due to constant sell outs. Why was it received so well?

It’s a combination of nostalgia and modern-day applications. Millennial parents relish the opportunity to relive their memories alongside their children. The blending of an old product with new technology makes the innovative device appealing. Seemingly dated, it still manages to be relevant in a modern-day setting.

Another example of Nintendo’s nostalgia marketing is the well-received Pokemon Go, a mobile app that combines augmented-reality (AR) technology with fictional characters from Nintendo’s popular game franchise. This app alone boosted Nintendo’s stock by 23 percent in one day and became the most-downloaded game app of 2016. Even today, social media is buzzing about a SNES Classic Edition from Nintendo, another replica of their generation-defining video game console from the 1990s.

Other Cases of Nostalgia Marketing

Nostalgia is still a powerful marketing tool for other brands. Tying a product to a moment has proven successful for Nike’s Air Jordan line. Each shoe design draws inspiration from stand-out moments of Michael Jordan’s stellar NBA career with the bonus of having modern-day shoe technology.

Nostalgia marketing is more than just a wink and nudge as if to say, “Remember these simpler times?” It should bring past experiences into modern day relevancy. It is a chance for the amalgamation of millennial ideals and today’s latest trends. Don’t think of it as travelling to the past but as the past travelling to us.



Alex Correa | The Edge Blog


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