There is a 35 year old Arrow dress shirt hanging in my closet that is embroidered with the initials JHK. The shirt belonged to my grandfather who passed away in 1983. I spent some of my most formative years living with him along with my grandmother and mother. He had a massive stroke just days before his 52nd birthday in 1972 and never worked another day in his life. He had been part of the World War II generation who returned home and worked hard. Sixty to eighty hours a week at the Westinghouse factory in East Pittsburgh was worth it to him in order to care for his family. It was a tough time for us in the 1970’s. Yet, I look upon those times fondly and the values and experiences that went with them.
This fall, I took a road trip from my home in coastal Virginia that covered over 2200 miles and six states in eight days. Along the way, there were quite a few mental side trips down memory lane highlighted by the soundtrack of songs that streamed into the satellite radio in my rental car. Some of these took me back to the days growing up in western Pennsylvania especially as I drove through the small towns in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. These areas are the source of many stories of struggle and triumph that always resonate in my mind.
This trip caused me to think about how the emotion of nostalgia can be applied in the marketing and investor relations disciplines and to help make deeper connections with the stakeholder audiences. In doing so, I discovered that the traditional consensus among psychologists is that nostalgia was viewed in a somewhat negative way. My Civil War Professor at Virginia Tech, James I. Robertson, would describe stories of melancholy in which widows “died of a broken heart.” So, I dug a little deeper into contemporary thought on the topic and discovered writings from North Dakota State University Professor, Clay Routledge. He offers a new view on nostalgia in saying, “Nostalgia is a healthy emotion that promotes well-being and helps with vulnerabilities and insecurities. Nostalgia is not about living in the past; it is utilizing the past to help with struggles.”
Nostalgia and Customer Loyalty
The evidence that nostalgia is used by consumer product companies is clear. Recently, I had breakfast at a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and posted a Facebook status as “they sell nostalgia here.” The locations are impeccably planned to appeal to customers’ senses visually with the furniture, music, and product offerings ranging from old style candy to comfortable clothes and food. Visit a location and you cannot help but think about the good old days or what might have been. It is an experiential offering. Companies that can create experiences that bring back positive memories can form a strong bond with their customers and ideally create a higher sense of customer loyalty. This can even be a strategy to revive and old brand. For Christmas this year, my mother bought me a replica Victrola combination radio and phonograph. It came with the ability to record from old media into a digital format. The first thing that I did was to make a digital file from a cassette tape of my grandfather being interviewed on a local radio station in 1976. He had helped to found a stroke club, or support group in today’s terms, and was encouraging others to join. This product helped me to transport myself back in time 40 years – that is nostalgia in a product at its best.
Another aspect to consider in using nostalgia in marketing to consumers is to identify the factors that can be tracked in relation to attitudes and behaviors. Ana Carolina Toledo and Evandro Luiz Lopes looked at the “Effect of Nostalgia on Customer Loyalty to Brand Post-Merger / Acquisition” and published their findings online at www.anpad.org.br/bar. They looked at customer perspectives associated with a bank merger and measured elements on switching costs, attitudes to the old and new brands, and loyalty. Their conclusions included:
- Give consistency to customer relationship as a management tool.
- Deliver relevant value to customers.
- Establish lasting ties with customers.
- Understand how they feel about your brand and what forms the nostalgic bond.
These conclusions are universal to almost any marketing plan whether you consider your product or service to be one that invokes a heavy dose of nostalgia or not.
Can Nostalgia Apply to Investors?
Companies who understand their investor base can leverage the same principles of nostalgia that impact customer acquisition and loyalty in gaining investors. This is why we believe in integrated communications for our clients at IR3Point0. By developing archetypes for typical customers and investors, marketing campaigns can be more effective and drawing these groups to a company’s story. In the microcap market, for example, the majority of investors fall into two categories: 18-25 years old and over 65 years old. Companies who can target these groups by attracting them to their story and getting them to buy into it will find greater loyalty.
So how can companies reach these investors? Companies should analyze how their offerings relate to memories and experiences that are common in their targeted demographics and relate their communication and online content to them. Using this approach rather than a hard push of products and services or hyped up projections of a future financial windfall will draw them to the experience that a company is offering. And any group can have nostalgia no matter how long ago the memories occurred. On my road trip, I spent a couple of days with my twenty-something son and his friends and heard stories of how a video game maker was introducing a controller that was similar to one used in the 1990’s. For this group, it invoked memories of the experiences of their youth. The challenge is to find the threads that connect to your target audience and to have them follow them to the experience that your company offers.