Nostalgia sells and marketers know it, having used the brands of yesteryear fully aware that consumers will open their wallets to scratch that sentimental itch.
Those oldies but goodies keep popping up today, but increasingly with a twist. Companies continue to re-release snacks, entertainment and technology that millions of people grew up with, but tweaking them to create hybrids that possess the same heartfelt recognition, with a modern flavor.
Companies have recognized that they can win over consumers nostalgic for the past and, at the same time, win new generations of consumers with a new spin.
"Younger consumers, like those in Gen Z or younger Millennials, had no direct exposure to many of the fads and trends the first time around so they have a different relationship to them, filtered through more current perspectives,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData. “That necessitates a modern spin in order for products to resonate. The younger consumer is often more concerned with curiosity and experience-seeking rather than with simple nostalgia.”
The fintech company Klarna said ‘vintage tech’ sales have rocketed in recent years, some unchanged and some with significant updates. Sales for wired headphones increased by more than 300% in February 2022 compared with the previous year. Flip phones sales were up by more than 80% in August, it said.
Here are a few successful reboots.
HAPPY MEALS .... FOR EVERYONE
Remember when that Happy Meal landed at the table and you didn't know whether to grab for a chicken McNugget or a toy first? For a brief period last year, you could relive that bounty of riches. This week, McDonald’s reported that strong quarterly profits were partially driven by by sales of Happy Meals, these ones for adults with toys made by the streetwear brand Cactus Plant Flea Market. The meals came in a totally redesigned box in Cactus Plant Flea Market’s signature style alongside McD’s iconic Golden Arches. It included either a Big Mac or 10-piece chicken McNuggets, along with fries, a drink and one of four collectible figurines - Grimace, the Hamburglar, Birdie or Cactus Buddy. Half of the toys included in meals were gone in the first four days of the promotion.
Celebrating 70 years in business in 2024, the maker of Peeps brought something new to the Easter basket this year by partnering with other classic brands and doubling down on the nostalgia. Just Born Quality Confections has continually updated the classic Easter treat, but this year teamed up with two brands that have been around for decades to create Dr. Pepper Peeps and Mike and Ike Peeps. “Inspiration from earlier ages is nothing new but the nostalgic imprint on this year’s trends is remarkable,” said Agus Panzoni, a trend researcher, speaking about sales in 2022. “Against the backdrop of a changing world, it seems people have been escaping to more comfortable territories as the antidote to everyday life.”
FLIP THE CALENDAR, FLIP YOUR PHONE
After vanishing for a decade flip phones are back. Believe it or not, there are teenagers opting out of some technology circles, tired of the glow from their cell phones. A quick search of Amazon or manufacturers websites show numerous models available, but the technology has also been updated in a big way, like Samsung’s Galaxy Z flip phone. The company shipped nearly 10 million foldable smartphones worldwide in 2021, an industry increase of more than 300% from 2020, according to blog post from Dr. TM Roh, head of Samsung’s MX business. Of all the phones sold that year by Samsung, 70% were flip phones.
CLASSIC CHARACTERS, WITH A TWIST
Nostalgia is not a new phenomenon in entertainment and numerous classics have been dusted off for new generations. But movies like “Top Gun: Maverick” and shows such as “Cobra Kai,” based off of “The Karate Kid” movie franchise and “Wednesday,” based on “The Addams Family” television show and films, have begun to resonate heavily. “Top Gun: Maverick” was surprise nominee for best adapted screenplay for the 95th Academy Awards. “Wednesday,” which debuted on Netflix in November and centers around a teenage Wednesday Addams making her way at a new school and solving mysteries, broke Nielsen streaming records and was renewed for a second season. Netflix announced in January that it gained 7.7 million subscribers during the October-December period. “Even those who remember products from the past often want their slice of nostalgia alongside something new and innovative, so that means reinterpreting and reinventing slightly,” Saunders said.