Borrowing from the good old days

Sravanthi Challapalli | Updated on May 31, 2018 Published on May 31, 2018

Blast from the past

Brands hope their nostalgia-infused marketing will translate into effective communication and customer engagement


Fido Dido is back. So is the Onida devil. The former is briefly reprising his role as mascot for 7Up, while the latter is finding his way around a world that’s 30 years older. How are they faring, or rather, how does nostalgia fare as a marketing strategy in a world where the young of today may not identify with the past of the previous generation?

Retro is cool

“Our research showed us that retro is becoming cool and there is an overall sense of nostalgia amongst consumers,” says Gaurav Verma, Associate Director, Flavours Marketing, PepsiCo India. The company has gone at its Back to Cool summer campaign with gusto, using a throwback theme. It has launched new bottles featuring six vintage designs, stretching as far back as the Fifties. The campaign attempts to underscore 7Up’s philosophy that there’s nothing better than being true to yourself and striving for originality, a tenet that can be an ideal for any generation.

Hamdard’s Ghulke Jiyo campaign for Rooh Afza takes off on the wings of a Fifties song, Yeh hai Bombay Meri Jaan from the Hindi film C.I.D. How elastic is nostalgia that it can stretch to Gen Z of the late 2010s? Mansoor Ali, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Hamdard India, says nostalgia is a bridge to the past, and is relevant to the 110-year-old Rooh Afza as it continues to be in people’s lives today. “The task is to make the brand, the message, relevant to the young. The film song has very high recall and awareness among young people, and we’ve used a mix of Hindi and English in our adaptation.” In the last 7-8 years, Ali says, young consumers have turned away from blindly aping the West, and returning to one’s roots, be it food or family values, is becoming aspirational. Ali explains that the ad for this traditional drink emphasises the need for unity in diversity, and says it’s very synonymous with the nature of Rooh Afza, which has to be mixed with other ingredients to make a drink.

A need, not a strategy

Navin Talreja, Co-Founder of ad agency The Womb, says, “We don’t necessarily have to make nostalgia relevant for Gen Z.” He does not think it’s correct to term nostalgia as a marketing strategy. Rather, it is more an emotional need felt by a certain segment of consumers that brands can potentially leverage, but cautions that a one-size-fits-all strategy can backfire.

Bringing a mascot back from the past is not just about warm and fuzzy feelings extending to the brand. It’s also about continuing and sealing an identity. “There are some ideas, assets, brand properties that are timeless. For instance, Fido Dido was a loved character in the past. It can become loved even today. For them to be equally or more loved even, care needs to be taken to reinterpret (if required) for the modern Gen Z, given the exposure they have to different content from around the world,” says Talreja. The Onida devil is a much-loved mascot that Mirc Electronics wants to revive. For Vijay Mansukhani, Managing Director, it is a way to sustain the excitement it evoked three decades ago. The devil made a comeback recently for Onida’s air-conditioners, the second time after the Eighties original for its TVs.

He says it’s an attempt to recreate the buzz in the present and the future. However, he wants the devil to represent all Onida products. He wants to bring back its famous tag line ‘Neighbour’s envy, owner’s pride’ and stoke pride in a ‘Made in India’ brand. Incidentally, he is not happy with how the recent avatars have turned out. “The devil has to be a lovable, arrogant and aspirational mascot, but now he looks apologetic and weak,” he says, vowing to set it right.

Making the past relevant

Neuromarketing studies have determined that advertising appealing to emotions and evoking memories is an effective way to build engagement. “Nostalgia marketing helps brand leverage the past to make an emotional connect with consumers. This kind of marketing works as long as it is contextually relevant and plays well on the product association,” says PepsiCo’s Verma. The company also launched limited edition merchandise inspired by the new packaging. “We are also hopeful that the campaign will help us bring back the iconic elements of 7Up and strengthen equity for the brand,” says Verma. He adds that vintage products become collectibles and generate tremendous brand equity as well.

Then, of course, there are products founded on nostalgia. Paper Boat, for one, with its mission of making people taste memories with traditional and home-made drinks such as aamras, kala khatta and jal jeera. There’s Saregama’s Carvaan, which the older generation can use to listen to the songs of yesteryear as CDs, cassettes and LPs are out of circulation. Talreja’s agency has designed the TV campaign for this brand. “India has over 200 million people over the age of 50 with money to spend given their life stage. Nostalgia when triggered with this generation in the most relevant way has a huge market,” he says, adding that the product, brand and the campaign should serve as a vehicle to take them back in time. “If this happens there is every likelihood that the consumers, along with fulfilling the rational need from the product, will also fulfill a much larger emotional need which will ensure brand love.”

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Published on May 31, 2018
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