Everything old is new again in the world of marketing -- although these days, "old" can sometimes mean the 1990s.
One week after PepsiCo made retro versions of Pepsi, Mountain Dew and Doritos a permanent part of the brands' lineups, Heinz Ketchup is readying a collector's edition glass bottle with a retro label, and Hostess is featuring '70s brand characters and bringing back Twinkies' original banana filling recipe.
The 14-ounce Heinz Ketchup edition, in the octagonal glass container used to some degree until glass was entirely replaced in the '90s by squeezable plastic containers, will be available at Walmart, Safeway and other select retailers during April through August (suggested retail $1.99).
Meanwhile, now through April 30, some packages of Hostess snacks brands Twinkies, Chocolate CupcCakes, Ding Dongs and Ho Hos will sport Twinkie the Kid, Captain CupCake, King Ding Dong and Happy Ho Ho. The Twinkies banana filling revival and the "old-school packaging" are intended to celebrate Hostess's history and tap into consumer nostalgia, said Hostess director of snack marketing Amy Clark.
As part of the overall promotion, through June 11, Hostess is also offering a collectible retro Twinkie the Kid alarm clock. (Consumers need to mail in two UPC codes from specially marked packages of any of the participating snack brands, an order form and $4.95 for shipping and handling.)
These developments come a week after PepsiCo announced that it is making sugar-formulated (no high-fructose corn syrup), retro-packaged Throwback versions of Pepsi and Mountain Dew -- as well as Doritos Taco Flavored Tortilla Chips last marketed in the 1980s -- permanent, year-round parts of the brands' portfolios.
The retro phenomenon -- also being seen in a wide variety of nonfoods categories (think Nike's Playoff Air Jordan 13 Retro athletic shoe and Disney's revival of the "Tron" franchise) -- is being driven primarily by marketers' realization of the power of "authenticity" among Millennials, in particular.
During PepsiCo's limited promotions of the Pepsi and Mountain Dew Throwback varieties, the brands saw extensive, positive conversations on social media and blogs about the offerings, including significant interest in where to find them, according to Shiv Singh, PepsiCo Beverages head of digital.
"There was clearly an organic [consumer-driven] demand factor," Singh tells Marketing Daily. "Retro is very cool with 20-somethings, because it ties in with their desire for simpler, cleaner, more authentic lives. Many of them are engaged in identity self-creation through their Facebook pages, Instagrams, Twitter and other social media, and they see nostalgia as a way to differentiate themselves." Retro/nostalgic themes also tie into the transparency and general zeitgeist of social media, says Singh.
One way that Pepsi Throwback is riding that zeitgeist is a new "Random Acts of Throwback" challenge on Throwback's own Facebook page (whose fans jumped from 15,000 to nearly 135,000 in the space of a month, reports Singh). Partnering with media companies, Pepsi Throwback asks fans to match characters with the (mostly 80s and 90s) films to win "throwback goodies."
Pepsi Throwback's Twitter presence also feeds into the nostalgia buzz, through brand-posed questions eliciting memories from Millennial/Gen Y fans, in particular.
But the power of the retro zeitgeist isn't limited to Millennials. Pepsi Throwback's "organic" audience demand encompasses Gen X, and boomers 46 to 54. "All of a sudden, demographics aren't serving as such a clear way to define audiences," says Singh. "We're seeing cross-generational interest in sharing 'throwback' experiences."
"Millennials are the first generation to have no experience other than the computerized, 24/7 communications experience, and they are a generation that like and respect their parents and their values," observes Cheryl Swanson, founder and principal in the Toniq LLC brand strategy firm. "They thrive on interconnectedness, but highly value authenticity, particularly 'real' ingredients as opposed to 'chemical stews.' At the same time, boomers feel a rose-colored yearning for the days when life was less complex."
"It's very significant that PepsiCo created a permanent 'throwback' marketing team," Swanson adds. "While we believe that retro packaging will be less long-lived, we believe that the concept of authenticity in the sense of 'real, natural' ingredients in food and being able to put one's trust in a brand -- believing that it is not a 'fly-by-night' brand -- are very much here to stay."
Swanson says that brands like Restoration Hardware, LL Bean, Converse and Keds are strongly positioned for growth, and predicts that retro TV shows a la "Mad Men" and "Boardwalk Empire" will continue to grow.