This post was written by Lenna El-Safwany, Director of Marketing at Jump Associates. Follow her on Twitter @lennalu, or connect with her directly by commenting on this post.

Over the past year or so, festivals around the country have leveraged one key marketing strategy to increase attendance.

When music fans bought that ever-evasive ticket to Coachella, or set out on the town to catch a live show, the prime motivation to do so didn't come from Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off.” It didn't come from Hardwell’s “Call Me a Spaceman,” either. Instead, their motivation was nostalgia—a chance to dance to the classics, from Dolly Parton to Outkast.

More so than ever, the music industry is leveraging the power of nostalgia to bring back loyal fans of the past and attract the new fans of the future. As it turns out, nostalgia isn’t just a good feeling—it can also be the core of a great strategy. Examining how music festivals and others are using nostalgia provides a great lesson: sometimes, we need to glance over our shoulder before looking ahead to find the next big thing.

Festival-goers now spend more than $1.7 billion a year on tickets. With sales of recorded music plummeting, music festivals figured it out pretty quickly: in order to grow your audience and ultimately, your revenue, you need to strike an emotional chord with your consumer. The result? Headliners like ACDC, Tony Bennett, with Lady Gaga, and Fleetwood Mac gracing the stages of over 800 festivals across the nation, drawing crowds 100,000-plus strong.

Emotion draws in the consumer, but leveraging emotions spurred from nostalgia builds loyalty. Psychologist Constantine Sedikides suggests that “nostalgia acts as a resource that we can draw on to connect to other people and events, so that we can move forward with less fear and greater purpose.” People are naturally drawn to what they know—which is why events like Coachella and Burning Man, events that have successfully built a sense of community around their purpose, continue to draw in loyal followers and new evangelists with nostalgia. What’s more, people are willing to pay more for things when those things make them recall a nostalgic event.

Media outlets are another great example of how businesses can use the power of nostalgia to drive audience growth. Nonprofit TV network PBS has long attracted the kiddo crowd with educational programming like Sesame Street, and has done this same for the Boomer generation with informational programming. Yet, despite its following, PBS needed a way to expand its audience to reach Millennials, that ever-important age group, without alienating its core base.


Enter PBS Digital Studios, a digital content arm that “inspires people to use their brains” through web based content. The first viral hit for PBS Digital Studios was an auto-tuned remix of Mr. Rogers, which resulted in two Mashies Awards for Best YouTube Brand Channel and Best Video Series. Aaron Shapiro, a judge at the 2013 Mashies Award said of the viral hit, “Bringing something of the past back to life in such a current way was truly innovative.” Now, half the viewership for the Web series PBS Idea Channel is age 25 and under.

Examples abound in many other industries, from insurance to toys. In an effort to engage Boomers and GenXers, who were slow to adopt Geico’s online, on-demand insurance platform, Geico launched a new ad campaign employing Salt n’ Peppa to “push it… push it real good.” State Farm commercials made a similar effort to seize the attention of the GenX audience with commercials featuring Hanz and Franz getting ready to “pump you up.”


Even LEGO, a favorite toy of children of all generations, rebranded to attract the adult segment and increase their market share. They launched a line targeting adult hobbyists with collectible pieces replicating icons of the past, like Tony the Tiger, Star Wars, or Batman. The nostalgia of playing with LEGO creates a loyalty to the brand and products for these customers as adults. Adults now account for 5% to 10% of LEGO sales.


Sometimes, the best ideas aren’t born from wholly new innovations, but rather repurposed gems of the past. The shininess of the new is alluring, but the past is sentimental and endearing. More and more brands are realizing how powerful nostalgia can be for increasing consumer loyalty—and for good reason.

By pulling at the heartstrings of old and young generations, from Boomers to Millennials, businesses can scale quickly without sacrificing their purpose.

So before you turn to the new to grow your business and increase loyalty, make sure you consider the past. When executed correctly, you may very well be able to use the power of the past to create new memories for your consumers that link them to your brand for a lifetime.


cover photo credit: NME.com