If there’s one thing that’s got us through the COVID-19 pandemic and multiple national lockdowns, it’s indulging in nostalgia.

A Radio Times survey revealed that two-thirds of people had watched one of their favourite shows again during lockdown, with 43% saying they did so to comfort themselves. Nostalgic videos set to a backing track of Simple Plan’s ‘I’m Just a Kid’ took over TikTok, with Will Smith getting in on the action and sharing throwback snaps of his time on The Fresh Prince.

Research has shown the powerful effects of nostalgia. Whether we’re reliving memories, watching our favourite shows, or listening to our favourite childhood music, indulging in nostalgia provides comfort and can even relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression.

A number of brands are capitalising on our love of nostalgia by embedding it into their marketing. Here, we look at some of the best nostalgic marketing examples and why they work.

Nintendo Switch: bringing families together

For the 80s and 90s kids among us, Nintendo defined our childhoods. Whether you grew up on the original Game Boy, spent hours playing Pokémon on your Game Boy Color, completed Super Mario 64 on your Nintendo 64, or you took on Final Fantasy IV on the SNES, you’ll never forget your first Nintendo console. Even seeing the modern versions of your favourite games can give you a rushing, warm feeling of nostalgia.

Nintendo plays on this, using nostalgia gorgeously in its Switch advert. The ad shows two squabbling brothers grow up and drift further apart to the point where they’re not talking. But, as they get their coveted Nintendo Switches delivered, memories of playing games together on their Nintendo Entertainment System surface and bring a smile to their faces. The ad ends with the brothers reuniting via their Miis (virtual Nintendo avatars).

Why it works

We’re by no means suggesting that simply buying a games console will help you heal deep family rifts, but this uses nostalgia in a way that tugs on our heartstrings. The once-divided brothers were able to reminisce about the good times they spent together playing Nintendo games, which is a feeling many of us will be familiar with.

Oikos and Full House

Full House has a firm place in iconic TV history. So popular was the show, which ran between 1987–1995, it was rebooted in 2016 to the delight of fans. Oikos clearly spotted the nostalgia potential earlier, running a series of ads with John Stamos, Bob Saget, and Dave Coulier, three of the show’s main stars.

The On the House ad plays on Stamos as the show’s 80s and 90s heartthrob, with Saget wearing a lifelike Stamos mask to buy groceries. The lustful cashier gives him his groceries for free, before pouncing on the real Stamos as he comes into the store. Who could blame her?

In The Spill, Stamos gets flirty over a pot of yoghurt, “accidentally” smearing some on his face as his female companion kisses it off. He drops yoghurt suggestively on his trousers before his co-stars ruin the moment, rushing in to clean him up. While the actors didn’t officially reprise their roles, they certainly had similarities with their characters; heartthrob Uncle Jesse and clean freak Danny Tanner certainly came out!

Why it works

Instead of invoking nostalgia with its own products as Nintendo did, Oikos has instead tapped into the popularity of an iconic TV show. Even ten years after the show finished, the actors are still adored and many fans still see them as their characters. This is a great tactic for businesses whose products aren’t necessarily known and loved in the same way as Nintendo’s iconic games consoles.

Revolution and Friends

As we’ve seen from the hype around the recent record-breaking reunion show, Friends is undoubtedly one of the most popular nostalgic shows of all time. Vodafone research shows that it was the third most rewatched show during lockdown in the UK. So, naturally, fans went crazy when makeup brand Revolution launched a Friends collection.

The collection includes eyeshadow palettes featuring the show’s iconic colour stories, including Monica’s apartment and the fountain from the show’s intro; lip kits to replicate Monica, Phoebe, and Rachel’s staple 90s looks; handheld lobster-shaped mirrors; and of course, Joey’s unforgettable lipstick for men. The first collection was so popular that it sold out instantly.

Why it works

Revolution, still fairly new to the makeup market, is another brand that’s capitalised on the popularity of a renowned show. But the company has taken it a step further by embedding the Friends brand into its own products with digital printing, instantly making its packaging collectable. By launching themed products that are modelled after some of the characters, fans can buy into the brand to recreate their favourite Friends makeup looks. Because let’s face it, Rachel’s oh-so-90s brown lip is just as stylish today as it was in 1995.

In tough times, we often find ourselves turning to nostalgia for comfort. We certainly did this during the COVID-19 pandemic as we reminisced about better times and indulged in our favourite old TV shows. A number of businesses have capitalised on the warm, fuzzy feeling nostalgia generates, using it in their marketing. There’s arguably no better way to create positive attitudes towards your brand than to blend it with that unrivalled, comforting feeling of nostalgia.