Remember This: Marketing Prof Explains The Pull Of Nostalgia

“I don’t do nostalgia. It just doesn’t occur to me. I’m living in the moment and I don’t have that gene.” —Harrison Ford

Apparently, Harrison Ford is an outlier. According to Jannine Lasaleta, a professor of marketing at Yeshiva University, most of us indulge in nostalgia, usually for a period 30 years ago. Right now, the culture is in the middle of nostalgia for the 1990s, a period before the Internet took a broad hold of the populace.

Advertisers have been quick to seize on this impulse. So far this year, we’ve seen ads from Staples, Samsung, Pepsi and others evoking the ‘90s. We’ve been through this before. In the 1990s, there was a big push to bring back the 1960s in fashion and music.



Why do we do this? We spoke recently with Lasaleta to get some answers. (Interview has been edited for clarity.)

Marketing Daily: There’s a big wave of nostalgia right now for the 1990s. Is there anything abnormal about this?

Jannine Lasaleta: Like in fashion, things come back again. All the ‘90 fashions are coming back, like the low-rise jean. Things come back in 20- to 30-year waves.

Marketing Daily: Was there ever a time when things didn’t come back after 20 or 30 years?

Lasaleta: I don't know any that I can recall off the top of my head. But I can’t think of a time that it’s come back in the same way, to the extent of the ‘90s craze around right now, or when the 80s were kind of more popular a decade or so ago.

Marketing Daily: Something usually spurs nostalgia. Was it COVID this time?

Lasaleta: Yeah, absolutely. The bulk of my research is on studying just the topic of nostalgia itself. I define it as a sentimental longing for a personally experienced past.

But in any case, it’s defining nostalgia as something personal. I also find [nostalgia triggered] when people feel threats to the self, whether it’s self-esteem or to your social support network,

Marketing Daily: Any ‘90s promos you particularly remember?

Lasaleta:. I think there was a big theme with the Super Bowl, with Dr. Evil for General Motors and Anna Kendrick doing a Barbie ad. Then there was the “Stranger Things” promotion with Domino’s.

Marketing Daily: Do you think in 10 years we’ll be nostalgic for the 2000s era?

Lasaleta: I think so. And I think we're nostalgic for the 2000s already. The cycle has become truncated. But I definitely see that the 2000s will be popular in the next 10 years or so.

I was talking to a friend and we were looking at sports jerseys and there's already kind of like throwbacks to jerseys that were supposed to be retired in 2020.

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