One of my favorite “Portlandia” sketches last season showed the “Dream of the ’90s” being alive in Portland. That sketch wasn’t about the 1990s, however; it was about the 1890s and featured hipsters with foot-long beards and wool vests, hand-hammering their ice from a block. There may have even been a monocle. While they clearly were mocking one pocket of Portland’s diverse crowd, there absolutely is an emerging trend whereby men take their style cues from previous generations, as reported in our study, The Acumen Report (44% of men looked to prior generations for inspiration on style). Marketers and brands are catching on as well and using nostalgia to help tell their story and attract new customers.
We are partners of the Movember foundation, an organization that has tapped into this idea of nostalgia while also fueling the modern man’s desire to do good in the world. Last year’s campaign creative called “Movember and Sons” depicted two generations of men with the common bond of growing a moustache. They nailed the idea that the previous generation was doing something right.
Levi’s always has been a brand built on tradition and history, but recently I saw its creative depicting NBA guard Russell Westbrook and legend Walt Frazier discussing what it takes to be a trend setter for the new generation. This is a modern take on the notion of nostalgia for this 125-year-old brand. Other brands including Makers Mark and Jack Daniels have leveraged their history to tell the brand story and relate to men as well.
You don’t need to be a brand steeped in history to use nostalgia as a marketing tactic. Last year we saw Dollar Shave Club brilliantly launch a product built on the idea that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and telling consumers that if a single blade razor worked for handsome “Pappy,” it can work for you, too. Men’s grooming overall has started to a see a shift away from the shave technology craze and a concurrent rise in traditional barber shops. Big brands also are exploiting the idea that men want to return to a simpler time; P&G’s Art of Shaving is a perfect example.
If you’re still not convinced or think this idea of nostalgia is a fad or for hipsters only, take a look at Justin Timberlake’s new album and live show. JT dons a “Suit and Tie” (actually I think it’s a tux) for his show that includes a brass band; he could be a lost member of the Rat Pack.
There is no question men today are relating to and gravitating towards brands that can tell a story. If that story can leverage history or nostalgia, it makes for a strong vehicle to engage men and build brand relationships.