The Resurgence of Retro Design and Nostalgic Marketing

We find comfort in what is familiar. A recognisable colour, smell or sound reassures us that all is indeed well. At Elephants, we’ve noticed an uptick in nostalgic marketing and brands refreshing their logo with a ‘throwback’.

Brands are tapping into the power of nostalgia to captivate an audience that is experiencing decision paralysis and is overwhelmed with so many voices telling them that they are ‘the new best thing’. It’s fascinating to watch so many retro and nostalgic elements making a remarkable comeback in design.

In this blog, we delve into this resurgence of nostalgic marketing and the rise of retro and explore the ‘WHY’.

The Power of Nostalgia

Nostalgia is potent. The emotional connection to positive memories, emotions and ‘better carefree times’ can overcome all rational thinking. A thorough understanding of this can help brands tap into this longing for comfort, simpler times and happy memories. From retro gaming rooms, roller discos and even retro bars from cultures around the world, the throwback fever is everywhere!


By leveraging nostalgia branding, brands can create immediate bonds with an audience that is based on trust and familiarity. We’ve talked about the power of colour psychology to connect with consumers and it’s a similar situation with retro design. Tapping into this collective consciousness is no mean feat and should always be approached with authenticity. You can’t fake nostalgia!

Nostalgic Marketing and Branding

Every brand wants to stand out from the crowd and capture the attention of their target audience. To foster brand loyalty, using retro elements in design can be a powerful tool to achieve these goals.

Whether it’s vintage-inspired logos or typography, a retro colour palette or era-distinctive imagery, retro design elements can allow brands to differentiate themselves from competitors and establish a strong brand identity.

Not only can this evoke nostalgia, but it can also appeal to modern consumers who appreciate when tradition meets innovation.  

Fast Food is the King of Nostalgia

In March this year, Pepsi unveiled a new logo and rebrand that paid homage to their logo design during the 60s.

Pepsi retro
Source: 1000logos

And they aren’t the only ones. Burger King and McDonald’s have also returned to early logo designs. In the cases of these Fast-Food giants, the golden age seems to be from the 60s to the 80s. The sweet spot for nostalgia!

Mcdonalds retro
Retro vintage ad

But why?

There’s a need to stay relevant and stand out (even when you’re established in the market). There’s a need for brands to connect with their consumers on an even deeper level and reach their emotional thinking – which is where nostalgia steps in.

The Resurgence of Nostalgia Marketing

We’ve seen an uptick in ‘minimalist’ design styles, and it seems that companies are starting to feel that this is too ‘mainstream’ and flat. So, they’ve gone back to the drawing board in search of the next best design approach.

Then something happened.

Pop culture saw a huge shift towards all things retro. Whether it was hit TV shows like Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’ or , it was clear that nostalgia and the retro concept was being well received by the public. They loved it.

Stranger Things Retro

Of course, we can’t attribute ‘Stranger Things as the sole trigger for the resurgence of nostalgic marketing, but it certainly helped to boost public love for it on a global scale. Nostalgic design elements offered clean and fun aesthetics that had the powerful ammunition of emotional associations strapped onto it.

The aftermath of the COVID-19 Pandemic left many of us in a low place of grey dread. The playful zing that nostalgia offered meant that brands could present a positive ray of light to consumers in a world that had seen so much negativity. The reminder of a better and happier time coupled with innovation and technology meant that people across demographics and background could enjoy a brand’s communications and messaging just that little bit more.

Is it just fast-food brands?

The Elephants found it interesting that this re-branding with the power of nostalgia seemed more common among fast-food brands. Established heritage brands that have been around since the birth of marketing has gone through every marketing and branding ‘trend’. In order to stay relevant and fresh, they have to respond to what their consumers want and need.

The idea of what is ‘healthy’ has changed drastically over the past 3 decades. We’ve transformed from hermetically sealed vacuum bags of produce to open crates of muddied vegetables. The vintage ad below would never work in today’s market where any claim can be disputed with a quick 2 minute Google session.

Vintage Ad McDonalds
Source: Pinterest

These fast-food brands can no longer rely on functional benefits or what ‘health’ was once perceived as. Their core offerings are their price points, convenience, and the positive emotions of eating at their chains. 40 years ago, you may have sat in the car with your parent eating a burger. And today, you are sat in the car eating the (somewhat) same burger with your child. It’s emotional product consumption at its best.

So what is the takeaway?

Nostalgia is an incredibly powerful tool in marketing when used effectively. By tapping into consumers’ longing and love for the past, brands can re-create this and build a connection that resonates with their target audience.

Are you a fan of this recent trend? What are your thoughts on rebranding, and how would you approach rebranding? Let us know your thoughts!

Thinking of using the power of nostalgia in your marketing?

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