Pokémon Go and More: Reaching Millennials with Nostalgia Made Modern

July 22nd, 2016

Millennials recently hit an important milestone: they now outnumber Baby Boomers and make up the largest living generation. At 75 million strong, it’s no surprise that companies are constantly competing to grab their attention. After all, if you can get roughly a quarter of the U.S. population to buy your product, you’ve got a good thing going.

But marketing to millennials involves a fresh approach. They prefer authenticity over corny gimmicks, consume media and communicate in less traditional ways, and value participation over passivity. Companies and their bevies of marketing teams have made it their mission to understand how to reach this elusive generation.

And here’s what they found: there’s something to be said for the good ol’ days.

(Granted, those days aren’t too far in the past for millennials, but you catch my drift.)

Nostalgia marketing is not a new concept by any means. It’s a simple idea that makes a lot of sense: selling products that consumers “grew up with,” whether it be a particular food or toy,  leads them to  reminisce about their childhoods. Associating the product with a – hopefully – happy experience, many individuals jump at the chance to rekindle memories by buying and using the product again. It’s not rocket science: people buy things that they are comfortable with and make them happy.

Companies are applying this concept to millennials – but with a 21st century twist. And millennials are eating it up with fork and knife emojis.

Pokémon Go

No more timely example of this phenomenon exists than Pokémon Go.

Pokémon holds a special place in the hearts of 18 to 34-year-olds everywhere. Originally swept up in the craze of the 1990s and early 2000′s, you can still find millennials showing off their Pokémon card collections with pride and reminiscing about playing the original Pokémon game on their Game Boys.

Enter Pokémon Go: Nintendo’s brand-new Pokémon game for mobile devices. But this isn’t just another mobile video game. Pokémon Go takes it a step further with an augmented reality feature that integrates Pokémon characters into real life places.

To say Pokémon Go is wildly popular is an understatement. Since Nintendo released the mobile application less than two weeks ago, it’s been downloaded over 7.5 million times in the U.S. alone and boasts more daily users than Twitter.

Everyone loves a good mobile game (Candy Crush anyone?), but how did Pokémon Go manage to become an overnight sensation?

Quite simply, Nintendo took Pokémon nostalgia and “millennialized” it.

Rather than re-issuing an outdated product, Nintendo took cues from millennial consumption patterns (as in, they do almost everything on their phones) and evolved their product accordingly. Nintendo succeeded so thoroughly in grabbing millennials, not by bringing back an old and beloved game, but by immersing them in it.

Nintendo NES

Nintendo continued to show that it knows how to hit millennials right in the heart by announcing plans to re-release the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) – with a few new bells and whistles.

Originally released in the 1980s and beloved by both older and younger millennials, the new NES is miniaturized and fits in one hand. Nintendo also ditched the bulky game cartridges that came standard with the original NES in favor of thirty pre-downloaded, classic Nintendo games including Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and Donkey Kong (that work without blowing into them). The console includes the iconic rectangular controller but boasts HDMI and USB ports.

Nintendo didn’t just brush the dust off of the old product, they created a hybrid that combines the most memorable features of the original NES – the games, the controllers, and even the boxy console design – with modern video gaming elements.

The new Nintendo NES is sleek, sexy, and compatible with the technology that millennials use everyday. Nintendo took nostalgia and made it portable enough to fit in the proverbial pockets of a thoroughly mobile-centric generation.

Fuller House

Movie and TV reboots are all the rage and a play right out of the nostalgia marketing handbook. And perhaps no recent reboot was more anticipated than Fuller House, the sequel to TV’s Full House, which aired between the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Chock full of life lessons about the struggles of growing up (and hugs), millennials grew up devouring the heartwarming corniness that was Full House. So, not surprisingly, after Fuller House was announced, millennials everywhere were feeling the warm and fuzzies for the return of their beloved Tanners (#TeamDJandSteve).

Within a month after its premiere, Fuller House amassed an amazing 14 million views. How? Fuller House is a prime example of the millennial reboot.

Instead of airing on traditional cable, one episode at a time, like its predecessor, the entire season of Fuller House was housed on Netflix. And what better way to attract a generation of cord cutters who prefer online streaming to cable boxes than to offer up their favorite memories on a platform they actually use?

You know the old saying: if millennials won’t come to the TV show, the TV show must come to Netflix.

Everyone enjoys a chance to relive the glory days, including millennials. But marketing nostalgia to millennials is not as simple as pulling an old doll out of the closet. Nintendo and others are beginning to see the pay off of taking a reboot and giving it a fresh coat of paint – and maybe internet access.

Ariel Kramer

Ariel dabbles in a little bit of everything from media relations and content creation to social media and blogging. When she's not on the clock, you can bet she's reading, eating, or binge-watching Gilmore Girls (or more likely doing all three at the same time).

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