Appealing to Millennials Not-So-Secret Weakness: the 90's

They are social media savvy, skeptical of traditional mass marketing, and always multitasking. Millennials can be a tough nut to crack. However, there’s something that Gen Y has in common with preceding generations which clever marketers can use to get their message across: nostalgia.

A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research has suggested that people spend more money when they’re feeling nostalgic, and millennials are no exception.

From the enduring popularity of the Space Jam website, an internet fossil untouched since 1996, to the fervent enthusiasm of young adults at the news of the addition of Bill Nye the Science Guy (a children’s educational program that went off the air in ‘98) to Netflix streaming, millennials are ready to get behind things that call back to the colorful, less connected world of their childhoods.

Here are five examples of campaigns that effectively use 90s nostalgia to target millennial audiences:

Kraft Mac & Cheese: Go Ninja Go!

In 2014, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese brought back Vanilla Ice’s rap from the 1991 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sequel to promote their TMNT-themed macaroni. The target audience for the ad isn’t young kids, but their parents - millennials who now have children of their own.

Teen Nick: The 90s Are All That

Starting in 2011, Nickelodeon came up with a clever solution for retaining audiences who have “aged out” of television for kids and teens. They started a special late-night programming block for airing classic shows from millennials’ childhoods, and they saw a 50% spike in ratings for viewers in the 18-35 age range. Nostalgia can make even a cartoon about a two-headed hybrid of a cat and a dog into a sought-after show for young adults.

McDonald’s: Flashback Booth

As a promotion for their Coke Glasses campaign to celebrate 125 years of Coca-Cola, McDonald’s released an app on their UK Facebook page that allowed users to apply retro filters from different decades to their photos. Even in the digital age, the allure of film remains, especially to millennials, for whom the switch to digital occured when they were kids.

Pepsi: Atari Arcade

Pepsi teamed up with Atari to make classic Atari games available on the Pepsi Throwback Facebook page. Users could visit the site, play the games, and win prizes. It’s a great example of gamification meets nostalgia.

Internet Explorer: Child of the 90s

What about campaigns that emphasize how far we’ve come since the 1990s? Internet Explorer made this great video combatting its reputation as an outdated browser by...acknowledging it. The video is chock full of 90s references that tug on your heartstrings, but then the video ends with the phrase, “You grew up. So did we.”

As tantalizing as returning to the past is, ultimately the most effective long-term message to send is how you’re going to move into the future.

But that’ll just have to wait until after we’ve all seen the newest Jurassic Park movie.

Noelle Micarelli

Marketing Apprentice / Cramer

Noelle is a self-proclaimed comic book nerd and tumblr extraordinaire, passionate about connecting with audiences in and out of the theater.

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