Nostalgia – where emotion meets tech

The power of nostalgia in brand-consumer engagement runs deep. While different tactics work for different brands, especially when it comes to implementing technology, the balance between tech and nostalgia can be precarious as consumers are inundated with more digital channels than ever before. In this fast-moving, over-saturated, sometimes sterile digital world, it can be difficult for brands to appease existing consumers while innovating enough to attract new consumers – and most importantly, make an emotional connection with both. What should brands consider to modernize their business while keeping the essence of the brand intact?

Digitizing Real-Life Moments: Are You Being True to Yourself?

From a technology and design standpoint, creating a digital version of a real-world moment or experience isn’t difficult, as long as a brand has the right tools to bring the vision to life. The hard part is successfully maintaining authenticity of the experience at hand. Nathan’s Famous, for example, created a virtual world of its iconic Coney Island roots, taking amusement park activities from its 100-year-old past and effectively ushering them into the present.

This was no easy feat, especially when the real-life Coney Island is backed by such avid fans and aficionados. However, Nathan’s Famous managed to leverage existing love and nostalgia for its brand and Coney Island by creating a site for virtual rides and games from the time period. What’s more, Nathan’s tied the virtual world launch to the brand’s centennial, encouraging both long-time fans and those who never had the real-life experience to participate in a significant business milestone and rally around opportunities to engage digitally.

Enhancing the Experience: Are You Adding Value?

Brands need to make sure that with the integration of technology, they are enriching rather than detracting from their interactions. For example, rather than forcibly shoving the brand message into an unfit digital channel, Pokémon Go instead enhances the gameplay by bringing customers directly into the game and involving them with familiar characters they love. A digital experience from a brand to a fan shouldn’t be too self-serving to either end, and a balanced duality is part of the reason for Pokémon Go’s widespread success. The content of the game clearly speaks to fans of old, but the augmented reality platform draws in a whole new audience as well.

Return on Investment: Are You Improving Efficiency for Your Business?

Brands need to weigh the experience with the business case when evaluating how they evolve their brand story through technology. While Cracker Jack initially received a fair amount of flak for its foray into augmented reality prizes, with nostalgic consumers feeling that it was failing to honor its prize-inside-the-box tradition, there appear to be several business benefits.

Cracker Jack should be praised both for its embrace of new technology and its forward-thinking approach in terms of its business and brand. Making the switch to digital prizing means consumers’ experiences can become shareable across social networks – amplifying the once-individual experience. Further, prizes can now be easily diversified and potentially even more immersive. Operationally, a smartphone-powered AR activation costs less than acquiring and placing a physical prize into each product over time.

Returning to Togetherness: Are You Creating Lasting Memories for Your Audience?

While brands like Cracker Jack are looking to the future, there are others that are benefiting from returning to the past. Retail brands like Urban Outfitters, for example, are capitalizing on the resurgence of vinyl records, dedicating sections of both online and brick-and-mortar stores to vinyl records of contemporary artists, modernized record players, and updated paraphernalia. In an environment that grows increasingly on-demand, it’s no wonder that some innate part of us wants time to slow down, and even gather with friends or family to listen to an album from beginning to end. Today, technology has the power to take away the experiential part of our lives just as much as it can enhance it. Brands should be asking how their technology can naturally take a backseat in a given environment, yet still play an impactful role that enables people to keep that sense of connection.

The universal rule here is that brands should not be adopting the latest crowd-pleasing technology just for the sake of it, and should instead prioritize building emotional, timeless connections with the consumer, while also evaluating the business benefit. Ultimately, it’s possible for brands to keep longstanding traditions while reaching consumers through new, digital tactics. Rather than simply adding to the noise, any new integrations and digital channels should establish and further a valid purpose.

See the article at IBM Think Marketing