The “New” Nostalgia Marketing Mindset | V by Viacom

The “New” Nostalgia Mindset

How humor is bridging the gap between old and new fans.

May 25, 2017

It seems like everybody’s in the nostalgia game these days, pulling at our heartstrings with products and moments from the past. But is looking in the rearview mirror really the right idea? Especially when we’re reimagining an existing brand for a modern-day consumer?

According to Joe Whitmore, EVP Worldwide Marketing and Creative Content for Paramount, the answer isn’t exactly clear-cut. “We definitely use nostalgia [marketing] – we just want to use it in a smart way. People get nostalgic for things, but unless something feels new or reinvented, it’s hard to get them off the sofa and into a movie theater.”

In terms of brand positioning, Whitmore’s idea of “new” nostalgia marketing is very much like that of the famous fourth wall in theater – a nod and a wink to the audience that we know that they know this isn’t the same brand they grew up with. For example, Sunny Delight utilized this by re-creating its famous rollerblading commercial from the ’90s (with adults and not kids) leading to a hilarious self-parody. Meanwhile, Kentucky Fried Chicken took its original fried chicken recipe to a whole new level this year with the release of “Tender Wings of Love”, a romance novel just in time for Mother’s Day. In both instances, there’s a level of heightened awareness that shows each brand is acutely aware of its past perception and has no problem tearing it down to build a repertoire with consumers.

From an entertainment standpoint, Baywatch the movie is also taking a page from the “new” nostalgia playbook. With indirect references to the original TV program that act as an ongoing gag throughout the film (like running in slow motion as homage to the original TV show opening), it became a top priority to create a real-time marketing moment for fans that captured both the nostalgia and humor of the past and present.

Enter a live Slow Mo Marathon in Los Angeles.

Over 1000 participants were challenged to run 0.8 miles in slow motion through the streets of LA while showing off their best Baywatch “flair”.  An online #SlowMoChallenge was also included as part of a tie-in (fans videotaped themselves doing their best slow motion moves then posted it on Twitter and Instagram for a chance to win a trip to the movie premiere). Both further cement the notion of taking an old concept and infusing it with the elements millennial consumers can relate to; humor, hashtag usage and heavy social engagement courtesy of the cast (both Zac Efron and Dwayne Johnson have continuously promoted the movie and the #SlowMoChallenge on their personal accounts.)

C’mon mayne- I WAS BORN in slo mo. Let’s do this @therock #SlowMoChallenge

A post shared by Zac Efron (@zacefron) on

“The Slow Mo Marathon was a perfect marketing event for this movie because it did two things,” Whitmore explains. “It hit the nostalgia bell, but it also hit the ‘we get what this is and we’re making it funny’ bell. Seeing it all unfold was weirdly hilarious.”

Perhaps the biggest benefit this “new” nostalgia mindset offers is the shared commonality it brings to consumers and audiences alike. Nostalgia’s job is to remind us of a personal feeling or emotion we felt at a certain time in our lives, while humor is universal and can be enjoyed by everyone at anytime. This shared commonality is a key factor for consideration, says Whitmore. “We’re targeting fans of the original [Baywatch] series, of course, but also comedy fans who may not have seen the original show – that’s why being self-referential and funny is so important.”