After the article we posted at the start of September, we’ve been thinking: What’s with all the nostalgia in content marketing?

Don’t buyers yearn to progress? To move forward?

Well, yes and no.

Common wisdom tells us that content marketing keeps its sights set on the future. Every word you write must exude an aura of shiny and new.

However, buyers don’t necessarily want something that’s new. They want something that’s missing.

That’s an important distinction to make.

Sure, high-performance marketing gives audiences a taste of the results to come.

If you’ve attended any small business and/or digital marketing expos in the past year, you may have heard the term “future-casting” tossed around.

The idea is that your blogs, website content, and email marketing showcase what is possible. Specifically, what is possible versus what exists now.

Marketing content, when it’s working, transports its audience from where they are to where they want to go.

Future-casting serves a worthwhile purpose. But when it comes to constructing high-converting marketing content, the future has little to do with audience engagement.

To pique your audience’s interests and get them reaching for the AMEX, we suggest sending your audience to the past.

And that’s because today’s audiences have stepped into a nostalgia time warp.

Wait! It’s Not So Simple…

It’s NOT a hunger for the days of yore.

The hunger for nostalgic content is not simply an aching for the past. It’s a yearning for simplicity. The past lives on, as it carries the essence of carefree days.

Think of your day-to-day life as it happens now. Now subtract the mortgage payments, rush hour traffic, doctor’s bills, and waiting on hold for half an hour.

Are you thinking about life from way back when?

While nostalgia itself has always existed, the need for retro products and services has hit a crescendo. And that’s because most of today’s buyers live in high-tension environments.

The pressure of bills, election season, housing prices, and stagnant wages place a stranglehold on buyers. So they look for products that remind them not of the past, but of less hectic days.

You feel this pressure. So does your target market. When you create nostalgia-centric content, you give them the release they crave.

Dissecting Nostalgia and Its Success

We recently published a blog article that dissected the success of Netflix’s sleeper hit Stranger Things.

Here’s the thing: nostalgia created the massive cult following. Well, it was partly responsible.

Stranger Things took on a eighties horror/science fiction movie style and pacing.

The show’s overall look and feel reminds viewers of E.T., Ghostbusters, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Back to the Future.

Add a splash of quick-witted dialogue like you’d hear in The Breakfast Club or Nightmare on Elm Street, and you have a full resurrection of the 1980s.

The nostalgic tone lured the audience in, but the vintage storytelling allowed its audience to escape the hubbub of modern life. And therein lies the difference between what’s new and what’s missing.

While you create nostalgic content, make sure you also consider…

  1. WHY your people need to escape…and WHAT they’re running from. If you know your target market well enough, you remain well aware of their specific problems. Chances are, your prospects don’t only have generic worries, such as bills and work stress.
  2. HOW your product and/or service opens the escape hatch. It’s not enough to present an understanding of the problem. Your content must also explain how the solution works.
  3. WHERE your clients want to go. Nostalgia won’t stretch far without an understanding of your audience’s desires. Plus, it’s not enough to know their struggles with specificity. Make sure you also highlight the easier future in which they want to live.

Most people want simplicity. It’s up to you and the marketing firm you work with to study your customer avatar and determine what that looks like.

Simplicity is One Thing, But You Also Need…

The thing is, audience engagement doesn’t happen through nostalgia and simplicity by themselves.

Your marketing content must also express the innovation your business employs.

Stranger Things looked like the past, which attracted a captivated audience. But the program also implemented a narrative that spoke to timeless concerns and struggles—single parent hardship, working class strife, gender identity, and bullying.

That’s where the show’s innovation kicked in. The world’s most successful brands are doing exactly that.

For example:

  • Netflix’s Fuller House is the ultimate nostalgia road trip, but takes on more serious subject matter that today’s audience wants. Beloved characters tackle issues of infertility, fractured families, and broken marriages.
  • Urban Outfitters has released a line of Lisa Frank merchandise. The nostalgia factor is very apparent, but it coincides with hipster fashion and irony.
  • Nickelodeon and MTV have launched vintage stations that cater to their lost demos. However, Beavis and Butthead will encounter contemporary dilemmas.
  • Surge (that nuclear green soft drink) is back on the shelf, after the soda disappeared seemingly overnight. There is more than one product that vanished and confused audiences. As audiences desire permanence, it’s likely the nostalgic resurrection will last this go-round.

But what about small businesses?

Luckily, most small businesses were born from the need for innovation. A gap in the marketplace allowed you to create a business that offers unique solutions.

Though we highly encourage you to jump on the nostalgia train in your content marketing, it’s equally important to remember what sets you apart from the corporate world.

In short, it’s your penchant for finding-fangled solutions. When you work with a professional copywriter who works to understand your buyer persona to a T, you can use the nostalgia factor to your benefit.

For example, you will show your audience that you…

Understand WHY the yearning for the past exists.

Wages aren’t as high as they used to be; social security isn’t the ironclad safety net it once was; a college degree does not always equal huge financial gains. There could be any number of reasons your avatar stays awake at night. But only you and your copywriter can tap into the true pain.

Use nostalgia but remember your audience’s present needs.

The past will fix nothing. Nostalgia is cool, but it’s paramount to propel your community forward.

Focus on the here and now, and use nostalgia as a backdrop.

Always focus on the audience from where they are now, and project where you know they want to go. Nostalgia will draw the audience in, but contemporary solutions will keep them coming back.