Alex Robinson, Graduate Student, and Dr. Brady Brewer, Assistant Professor


The power of brand nostalgia: Contrasting brand personality dimensions and consumer-brand relationships of nostalgic and non-nostalgic brands by Seounmi Youn and Naa Amponsah Dodoo


Journal of Consumer Behaviour


Marketing is more important now than ever before due to the increased visibility and availability of all brands. Many popular brands use nostalgia to induce a feeling of reliving the “good old days” to persuade consumers into potentially buying their product. Large, recognizable companies believe using nostalgia provides them the opportunity to shape their own narrative around their longevity and display their trustworthiness as a brand, thus giving them an advantage over their competition.

Seounmi Youn and Naa Amponsah Dodoo conducted a study to examine the power of nostalgia and its impact on brand personality from the consumer perspective. Brand personality is loosely defined as a set of human characteristics that are attributed to the name and recognition of a specific brand. This research aimed to discover what extent brand personality varies across nostalgic and non-nostalgic brands, the effect of nostalgia on consumer-brand relationship outcomes, and whether perceived brand personality mediates the influence of a brand’s nostalgic status on consumer-brand relationships.

First, the researchers conducted two pretests to select nostalgic and non-nostalgic brands. The purpose of the first pretest was to obtain a list of nostalgic brands and non-nostalgic brands in seven categories. The goal of the second pretest was to finalize the list of nostalgic brands while taking into consideration demographics such as age and gender. This research was done in two studies, the first measuring brand attachment, and the second measuring relationship quality. Brand attachment was measured by asking, “To what extent is (brand name) part of you?”, and, “To what extent is it difficult to imagine life without (brand name)?” Relationship quality was measured by having participants respond to the following statements, “I feel loyal towards this brand”, and, “I write comments about this brand on social media.”

In the first study, brand attachment received higher mean scores for nostalgic brands than non-nostalgic brands, and in the second study, relationship quality received higher mean scores for nostalgic brands than non-nostalgic brands. Participants described nostalgic brands as more exciting, sincere and competent. The authors conclude that brand managers should absolutely use nostalgia to their advantage, as it is proven to be an effective marketing tool. The authors also reveal that possible limitations in their study could be the lack of control for luxury goods and regional bias.

What this means for Food and Agricultural Business

Tradition already serves a pivotal role in the agriculture industry through family lineage, agricultural practices and the products bought by consumers. Nostalgia is an important component of tradition. Large companies such as John Deere, Syngenta, Land O’Lakes and Kellogg with a rich, deep history have the best opportunity to implement brand nostalgia in their marketing strategy.

Companies should use brand nostalgia to improve brand loyalty and repair any damage to their reputation. The use of brand nostalgia in marketing strategies can aid companies financially and continue to build their brand for future generations. It is not only important for current stakeholders and consumers to recognize and appreciate the history of a company, but it is imperative that these companies make an exceptional impression on younger generations to ensure their business in the future.

While there are many examples in the agricultural industry, John Deere has used brand nostalgia effectively for generations. David Magee (2005) said, “In the last couple of years, the John Deere brand has experienced an explosion of a broader base. The purpose of including brand nostalgia in marketing strategies is for your product to evoke sentimental memories of your company, and Deere has done that as well as anyone.”

On the other end of the agricultural supply chain, many food companies have done this as well. Coca-Cola® branded products can be purchased year-round that add to the brand nostalgia. Success in brand nostalgia can be tricky, as connecting with the customer is not guaranteed. Indeed, many companies that have been around for many decades are unable to tap into this type of marketing tactic. A brand’s marketing may be highly successful, and people may be aware of them, but some brands still fail to reach this type of free advertising that brand nostalgia can offer where people wear their logo on a hat or showcase their products on a home display. If companies are successful with this strategy, it has an enormous impact on brand perception and reach.

As new companies are created and bring exciting, innovative products to the market, older companies can use brand nostalgia to maintain their market share. Nostalgia often makes people feel good about themselves and leads people to worry less. While the value a product brings is important in marketing, agribusinesses can’t forget that making people feel good about their company and product is also important.