To celebrate the return of OREO Cakesters, the brand decided to "rewind” to the mid-2000s on Jan. 7 with a playful takeover of the last Blockbuster, located in Bend, Ore.
The soft-baked snacks first launched in 2007, inspiring the nostalgic activation that included a co-branded exterior marquee, Cakesters-themed movie posters that spoofed popular genres and free samples that were presented in retro VHS-inspired packaging.
The product was discontinued in 2012, but the ongoing passion of devoted fans motivated the Nabisco brand to bring the snacks back, returning to shelves after a 10-year hiatus.
“Nostalgia is all about connecting with positive memories from the past,” said Justin Parnell, VP of marketing for OREO. “It creates a comforting feeling for consumers and has proved to be an effective marketing strategy, especially when targeting millennials and Gen Z—now reflecting on their adolescence. With this takeover, we playfully tapped into the familiar feeling of heading to your local Blockbuster on a Friday to pick up the latest VHS or DVD, and took the nostalgia up a notch by surprising storegoers with the addition of a cult favorite snack from the aughts: OREO Cakesters.”
While the concept of nostalgia marketing isn’t new, it makes sense that during this tumultuous time—a global pandemic—brands would want to create a sense of comfort and feel-good vibes for their consumers. Establishing a positive association with their consumers means that they’re more likely to buy the product again.
“Now more than ever, consumers crave the comfort and stability that nostalgia marketing taps into, providing brands the opportunity to reinvigorate life-shaping memories while introducing new products or reinforcing brand perception through positive emotional connections,” explained Brian Vaughan, executive creative director and partner of creative marketing and communications agency Shadow.
The bicoastal agency recently employed this strategy to introduce e.l.f. Cosmetics' new Electric Mood collections, which features flashy branding emblematic of the early 90s, via product drops at the homes of NYC-based beauty editors with a branded convertible called the "MOOD-mobile." It also made a pit stop in Times Square where consumers were able to receive products. “We love tapping into opportunities for nostalgia when the moment feels right, and there is synergy with what we are activating around,” said Jamie D’Attoma, executive vice president and partner at Shadow.
In early 2021, Pizza Hut partnered with PAC-MAN to launch a limited-edition box and augmented reality (AR) game as a way for folks to relive the classic Pizza Hut dine-in experience in the comfort and safety of their own homes. The AR game was printed directly on the packaging, allowing fans to play using their smartphones.
A spokesperson for Pizza Hut explained that the brand’s “Newstalgia” campaign “was born out of listening to our customers and celebrating all the things they associate with and love most about the brand—whether it’s the Tiffany lamps, arcade games, the red cups, the red-and-white checkered tablecloth or, of course, our iconic pizzas—and fusing those timeless equities with modern innovations, as seen with the partnership with PAC-MAN and limited-edition AR box. It works well because we listened to what customers were asking for and delivered it to them.”
While including nostalgic nods to the past might seem like a surefire strategy, brand marketers need to introduce a modern twist so that the experiences and activations don’t appear stale.
“Oftentimes with nostalgia marketing, we’re not entirely copying something from the past but rather using the reference to create something that emerges as new,” Vaughan said. “It’s a unique way to storytell and create by combining references or creating something out of two things that maybe you wouldn’t think to put together…. We, as in everyone, are creating more content than ever thanks to the continued evolution of the internet: campaign content, personal social content, art and more. As content creation has accelerated to light speed, the degree to which we use past references to create something that is 'new' has increased significantly.”
D’Attoma emphasized that point, adding that event pros need to avoid recreating the reference exactly and instead create something that feels fresh. “How might you use creator/influencer talent to reinterpret or put their spin on a style trend? How can we remix a '90s music sample to serve as the backdrop to an experience? What would it look like to resurrect a previously closed '90s haunt, but experience it with today’s technology and social media?” he asked.