“Technology is a glittering lure. But there is the rare occasion when the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash if they have a sentimental bond with the product. My first job, I was in house at a fur company. This old-pro copywriter, Greek, named Teddy… Teddy told me the most important idea in advertising is ‘new.’ It creates an itch. You simply put your product in there as a kind of Calamine Lotion. We also talked about a deeper bond with the product — nostalgia. It’s delicate but potent. Teddy told me that in Greek, nostalgia literally means ‘the pain from an old wound.’ It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone.” Don Draper, Sterling Cooper & Partners.
Working with brands day in, day out, we endure a continual pursuit of differentiation for our clients. The type that communicates genuine brand positioning, creating sector standout. When the service proposition doesn’t quite tick the box, then brand really ought to pick up the baton, which is where we usually come in.
“What makes YOU different?” we ask. The response is usually a mish-mash of oft-repeated brand hygiene factors. The basic set of values an audience would nearly always expect as standard issue for something they are considering to purchase.
It’s not usually a problem if you are the first in your sector to do something really clever. It is, however, if you are doing the same thing as everybody else and we have to dig a bit deeper for standout.
We recently worked with a 180 year old textiles business and quickly identified that we could craft a new brand positioning around this heritage. Somewhere along the way, they’d detached themselves from these roots of authenticity our research discovered provides massive reassurance to customers.
If you’re positioned as the value, service or quality provider within a space, you’re always exposed to a cheaper, faster or simply better product or service entering the market. However, new players can’t reinvent time and compete with a heritage positioning.
Deeper still is nostalgia, that ‘twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone’. Retro fads usually tap into this, be it a resurgent sportswear brand or even the return to the high street of the TSB banking brand.
A fantastic example of a nostalgia brand doing well in recent months is Panini. Everything about the product takes you back to a happy place in your childhood. Every peel of sticker, every scent of foil and every completed team brings memories rushing back.
Most dads I spoke to in a recent weekend swap session (with our kids) at the National Football Museum were more than happy to spend pound after pound chasing their childhood dreams all over again.
Actually stepping back and comparing the quality and relative value of stickers to the ones in my 1986 album, they don’t stack up. Certainly a much flimsier feel to both album and sticker. However, Panini only need to tick ‘minimum quality’ and ‘reasonable value’ boxes as who else would dare enter this space given the nostalgic association.
Now, very few businesses can tap into this ‘nostalgia’ trick per se, as part of their core brand proposition. But have a think how you can tap into it, even if at a one-off campaign level.
It’s a powerful device that in Draper’s words, will create much ‘deeper bonds’.