Harnessing the Power of Nostalgia | V by Viacom


Harnessing the Power of Nostalgia

How positive emotions are driving today’s millennial marketing.

Oct 07, 2016

KFC. Pokémon. Calvin Klein. While these three brands seemingly have nothing in common, they’ve all managed to grab the attention of millennial consumers in a major way.  Why? Because the emotional connection generated by nostalgia has proven to be such a powerful driving force, marketers are now capitalizing on it to win over the coveted 18-34 year-old demographic.  And guess what?  It’s working.

Think about it. At ten years old, your weekend priority was pretty clear: Saturday morning cartoons were everything.  If we could bottle that delight and just sell it, our jobs would be done. But the challenge lies in actually reframing this feeling so it fits into a modern context. (Sure, your days of living on Fruit Roll-Ups may be over, but who couldn’t use a dose of Hey Arnold! after a stressful day at the office.)

And that’s the sentiment we at Nick see over and over again. Our characters helped raise a generation (in fact, 82% of millennials cite Rugrats as the #1 show from their childhood.)  So 90’s Nickelodeon is an essential part of their DNA.  Only now, instead of just TV, they’re sharing these memorable moments online and across their social feeds daily.

The #TBT Effect

Nickelodeon didn’t set out to create a marketing effort around nostalgia—the growth was organic, fueled by the fan response we saw online. Millennials embrace all things social, and this was no exception.  Fans were constantly posting things about their childhood and the shows associated with it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  Based on the pent-up social demand for this type of content, The Splat was born. The Splat launched last year as a nightly, primetime programming block on TeenNick. Today, more than a programming block, The Splat is an experience – rooted in television, activated across social and brought to life in person.  Creating tools our fans can use on social to express themselves has been a critical part of that equation given the huge impact social connectivity can have on nostalgia marketing efforts.

Reliving the Experience in Real-Time

If a time machine existed that could take us back to when we were kids and we first fell in love with a show or movie, that’s a trip we’d sign up for.  So this summer, along with other like-minded partners, we created several experiential marketing events that allowed fans to literally step back into their favorite 90s shows and brands.  It wasn’t enough to just bring back something old; we wanted to offer a fresh twist that would mirror the surprise and delight our audience felt as children:

– The Return of Double Dare and Host Marc Summers at San Diego Comic Con


– A Secret Teenage Mutant Ninja Lair in Partnership with Airbnb

–  A Guts DEWggro Crag Challenge in NYC with Mountain Dew


– A Special 90’s Shopping Installation Curated by Story


Nostalgia: The Ultimate End Game

Authenticity and staying true to a brand is critical. It’s a filter Nick always uses when creating new things. And while the notion of nostalgic capital is just emerging, we know there’s a sustainability that exists that’s unique to the sentiment a product generates.

The challenge and adventure will continue to be not only how to revive relevant content, but also how we help it live offline with branded partnerships. We have to create this consistent and persistent effort through our media programs, and then pulse it through promotions, stunts and events. Our high level vision is to create “familiar moments” that celebrate something awesome.  When fans plead to get slimed – that’s when we know we’re doing something right. 

Main image from The Splat’s Facebook.