Millennials: the nostalgia generation

Millennials love a bit of nostalgia – and marketeers have cottoned on to this. Over the past few years, nearly every area of consumer consumption has been hit with it: from the return of Polaroids, vinyl making a comeback and Pokemon Go once again becoming a craze, to name just a few things.

There’s something comforting about the past, isn’t there? Streaming old Friends episodes while waiting for your Uber Eats and recovering from night out is soothing – a modern day equivalent of a stumbling to the nearest McDonalds for a burger and Coke.

What’s that you’re feeling? Yearning for the days when you used to sit down after school on a Friday night and tune into Channel 4, where Friends dominated the 9pm slot for years? Or simply yearning for the opportunity to recover from a hangover without children bouncing all over you?

‘History repeats itself, first as a tragedy, second as farce.’ — Karl Marx

What is nostalgia marketing?

In a sense, nostalgia is a psychological defense mechanism. It protects you from negative emotions by reminding you of happier times.

Nostalgia marketing is a company’s effort to jog our memories and leverage an already established virtue of a brand or an idea, and realign it with their own offering. From a marketing perspective, leveraging nostalgia now makes a whole lot of sense. If your content can get people feeling nostalgic, it will also get them feeling good by extension. And when it comes to growing a loyal following, creating content that makes them feel good seems like a winning strategy.

For example, this tactic is used on Facebook with its “This Time X Years Ago” story. It is under the social media giant’s best interests to keep us coming back to their site – and they use nostalgia to do this.

The companies making the most of this trend


Netflix, a holding in T. Rowe Price Global Focused Growth Equity*, is a pro when it comes to using nostalgia. Its ‘Netflix originals’ such has Gilmore Girls mini-series and Fuller House series. The idea is that if it worked once, then it will work again. Not to mention their offering of the aforementioned Friends. Speaking of familiar, Netflix recently announced a deal with Nickelodeon to produce animated television shows and movies that would be based on new characters and old favourites from the network, following the release of Disney+. Of course, all these original shows and content means a Netflix bond, a top ten holding in Baillie Gifford Strategic Bond* is also an option.


Arguably the most iconic brand of all time, it’s no shock it’s a top ten holding in Morgan Stanley Global Brands*. It seems everyone has a memory of drinking Coke (see the above mentioned hangover remedy). Because of its long history, Coke invokes nostalgia marketing every few years – vintage posters and their iconic glass bottles. A brilliant example of Coke’s nostalgia (and product placement) is the series finale of momentous show, Mad Men (available on Netflix), which ended its award-winning run with the iconic 1970 Coca-Cola ad.


Few brands evoke our childhood days of playing video games better than Nintendo, a holding in both Baillie Gifford Japanese** and Baillie Gifford Japanese Income Growth**. In 2016, Nintendo recycled an old favourite: the NES Classic Mini Console with Super Mario Bros, Donkey Kong and Pac-man amongst others all included – in their wonderful 8-bit glory. It became so popular three Christmas’ ago it was almost impossible to find online and in stores. The success led Nintendo to release more throwback products.


After Netflix added the classic Bob Ross TV show to their line-up “The Joy of Painting”, the beloved 80s artist saw a huge resurgence online. So much so that Adobe, a holding in Rathbone Global Opportunities*, used this new found nostalgia to promote their Adobe Photoshop Sketch app for iPad Pro. Adobe worked with Bob Ross Inc to ensure every detail was accurate to honour the late artist.


Speaking of Apple, a company held in both AXA Framlington Global Technology* and Fidelity Global Special Situations* is widely known for their fancy product launches and celebrity endorsements. But in 2016 Apple turned to a different kind of celebrity: the Cookie Monster. The lovable childhood character uses hands-free Siri to help him bake some cookies. The idea was to portray a more fun side to the brand and target people’s love of a childhood favourite.

*Source: fund factsheets, 31 October 2019

**Source: FE analytics, total holdings 30 September 2019

The views of the author and any people interviewed are their own and do not constitute financial advice. However the knowledge that professional analysts have analysed a fund or trust in depth before assigning them a rating can be a valuable additional filter for anyone looking to make their own decisions. Before you make any investment decision make sure you’re comfortable and fully understand the risks. If you invest in fund or trust make sure you know what specific risks they’re exposed to. Past performance is not a reliable guide to future returns. Remember all investments can fall in value as well as rise, so you could make a loss.