Everything old is new again. To hook otherwise jaded consumers, a handful of brands have tapped into the power of nostalgia to advertise their products–whether mayonnaise, bug spray, or rice.
The tactic goes beyond pure emotion: A recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that consumers spend more “when feeling a sense of nostalgia-evoked social connectedness.”
“We believe the recent use of nostalgia-conjuring creative in a number of ads is both an attempt to break creative redundancy and an effort to spur consumers to fuel the ads’ reach,” added Rick Miller, vice president of strategic insights at marketing decisions platform Networked Insights.
Following are five brands whose ad campaigns include Victoriana cut-outs, ’30s black-and-white movie trailers, Lego-block animation, and arts-and-crafts projects. As a result, they stand out among the slick clutter of computer-generated imagery.
1. Blue Plate Mayonnaise
Two-dimensional, oversized Victorian-era heads atop vintage-clad bodies board a wooden plane, circa the Wright Brothers. The audience is told these characters were “packing light,” as in Reily Foods’ Blue Plate Light Mayonnaise, and “the lightness of the mayo lifted the plane,” enabling the first transcontinental flight, according to the narrator. “Truth or hot air?”
Another ad stars a yesteryear captain able to fuel his blimp with cloud power and himself with mayo. Amplifying these far-fetched but enticing pitches are Reily Web sites blueplatemayo.com/new and spreadthelegend.com, both of which have racked thousands of page views.
“We created a campaign that leveraged the brand’s rich history and Southern pedigree,” said a spokesperson for the mayo, sold since 1927, in an interview with CMO.com. "The vintage or retro look and feel of the animation was intentional.”
2. Raid Defense System
Fact: Bugs repel viewers. So rather than show realistic images of insects, Raid regresses to the blocky animation of a few decades ago, making even ants adorable–and captivating.
A backdrop of saturated shades of cobalt, kelly green, and daffodil yellow becomes even more eye-catching as it seems to assemble and pull apart like Lego blocks, reminding viewers of childhood and thus shrouding insecticide with nostalgic warmth–quite a feat.
By dialing back decades in animation skills and reinforcing its pitch with its own Web site, RaidKillsBugs.com, Raid Defense System’s “Shoe” and “Battling Ants” commercials are a step up above the competition: 2.4 million views on YouTube.
3. Kraft Classic Ranch Dressing
For years, dressing-makers have relied on food porn of the veggie variety: slow-motion pouring of creamy topping from the bottle onto crisp arugula, romaine, and spinach brightened by cucumbers, carrot shavings, and the like.
But salads aren’t entertaining, nor do they inspire the same lust as burgers or brownies. So starting June 3, Kraft looked to the past, with humor.
During its first 35 seconds, Kraft time-trips through the decades via three-second scenarios, including a ’50s-era housewife in pearls serving an iceberg head on a silver platter to her Sunday-best-dressed family in a ranch-style home; a ’70s Ultra suede-and-sideburns guy buying lettuce as the only option offered by vending machines; and a ’30s-era, scratchy movie preview showing iceberg and romaine toting a trailer reading, “Lettuce all go to the snack bar.”
Only then, once the audience is rapt, does the narrator claim “lettuce is about to have a moment.” The focus switches to 10 seconds of the dressing with “more creamy buttermilk and savory herbs” being drizzled on a tomato- and cucumber-adorned salad.
“The campaign is a manifesto about underdog foods,” said a Kraft Foods spokesperson of its “Food Deserves Delicious” ads, in an interview with CMO.com. “These underdogs are being fictitiously celebrated and elevated within American culture with a juxtaposing voiceover to ramp up the absurdity of this notion. This ridiculousness of seeing these foods being celebrated drives home the point that these foods are not heroes, until they get a little help from Kraft salad dressing.”
Digital, search, and CRM campaigns reinforce the message, the spokesperson added. “Our new dressings will make you think twice about that lowly head of lettuce or oft-forgotten radish, transforming them into the stars they’ve never been.”
4. Double Whammy.Com
In a sea of colorful drug commercials with complex storyboards, AbbVie stands out for its starkness. A black-ink figure with circle head–lines serving as eyes, brows and mouth–ambles toward the viewer on a white background.
A preteen probably could draw the art, which relies on old-school clichés to reinforce its message on the agony of psoriatic arthritis. The person is hit by one brick, then a ton before being pummeled by boxing mitts entering from both sides of the screen.
Gorgeous this ad isn’t–but neither is pain.
And that’s how AbbVie’s DoubleWhammy.com TV ads pack their punch, amplified by the Web site (and sister site psoriaticarthritisinfo.com). Traditional heart-tugging images of children, puppies, and the outdoors aren’t needed, as they are in other pharmaceutical commercials.
5. Uncle Ben’s
Popsicle sticks, patchwork trees, and families with knitted heads on stick figures suit the message for Mars’ Uncle Ben’s rice. “The inspiration for the ‘Begin with Ben’ campaign came from the product itself: What if we could journey inside a box of Uncle Ben’s to see all the possibilities?” said a Mars spokesperson of the 4-year-old campaign, in an interview with CMO.com. “We’ve created a whole world inside the box that feels optimistic, playful, and handmade.”
That style and message never waiver despite multiple versions running in the U.S., Canada, France, and Germany: Rice’s wholesome versatility serves Mexican, Italian, and other cuisines without cutting into family time.
As narrators note, “Man, that little rice can fly.” Along its international journey, the grain has collected nearly 200,000 Facebook likes and 25,000 YouTube views on the Uncle Ben’s channel.
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