Retro Marketing and Flashback Branding

pepsi-throwback2When it comes to food marketing, it seems that old is the new “new.”   

As the recession continues, food and beverage companies are attempting to evoke memories of childhood — when times were safer, more secure.  Experts are calling the technique “Childhood Memory Elicitation” and examples of this retro marketing are suddenly everywhere.

Familiar logos or products that take you back to a time when things were simpler are comforting and can trigger that emotional connection that marketers are striving for. During these stressful times, a link to the past is often very effective.  So instead of “new and improved,” the new sales cry is “achingly familiar and reassuringly consistent.”

One of the latest examples is Pepsi and Mountain Dew Throwback — dubbed as refreshingly retro.  These limited-time only soft drinks are made with a retro recipe that uses “natural sugar”  instead of high fructose corn syrup.  That’s fine, but they’re nutritionally equivalent. So this is no free pass to guzzle like you’re in high school.  And the “natural sugar” in the throwback sodas is just plain old cane and beet sugar. So don’t confuse “natural” with “healthy.”

Pepsi’s current campaign called “Refresh Everything” brings the nostalgia craze to life on TV with a blending of old and new images.  Even the revamped minimalist logo seems to evoke the glory years of the iconic cola.   


General Mills got into the vintage game by recreating some classic cereal boxes for a limited promotion at Target.   Perhaps you saw these retro boxes popping general-mills-retro1up on store shelves —  Wheaties, Trix, Kix,  Cocoa Puffs, Lucky Charms, Honey Nut Cheerios and Golden Grahams.

Beyond the bowl, you can enjoy these childhood favorites by wearing a retro cereal T-shirt.

It seems the nostalgia craze is not just limited to food.  Entrepreneur magazine reports that signs of the retro trend are everywhere.  Bowling alleys are glam again, roller rinks are attracting a new generation, and even drive-in movie theaters have halted their long slide toward oblivion.  Even in these high-tech times, board games seem to be enjoying a resurgence.  Research by The Intelligence Group, a New York City-based market research firm, found that 14- to 34-year olds known as “trendsetters” prefer board games to video games by a margin of 60 to 40 percent.  That’s why a company called Winning Moves re-introduced  ’50s favorites Parcheesi and Careers — complete with their original packaging.

As I said in my earlier post about the simplicity trend, sometimes what’s old is really new again.

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