The Results are in: Millennials Diagnosed with “Early-Onset Nostalgia”

Nostalgia marketing is as straightforward as it sounds—strategically marketing products and brands around the desire for simpler, more sentimental times. Yet this type of marketing is not for the baby boomers reminiscing about decades past. Instead, it’s the millennial generation that’s going gangbusters for anything and everything related to their childhood.

Don’t believe it? Go try a unicorn frappuccino.   


The Desire for Simplicity in an Over-Complicated World

There are several theories as to why this young generation is already yearning for yesteryear. Some marketing professionals believe that the great recession played a factor. Millennials grew up in a time when the promise of the American Dream seemed shaken. Adulthood suddenly became a future full of uncertainty.  

Others believe that the modern millennial is inundated with technology-driven demands. They are expected to be constantly connected in their work, school and personal lives, causing a sense of mental exhaustion.

Still others find that the weight of large social issues and the dramatization of politics leave them feeling more concerned and burdened than previous generations.

Whatever the cause may be, it’s enough to push some millennials back to the times of juice boxes and cartoons.  

Brands are now scrambling to recreate childhood favorites from the not-so-distant past. This runs the gamut of throwback plastic jelly shoes to straight-out-of-the-80s sci-fi TV shows. But retro foods and flavors are the clear winner in this phenomenon.  


Best Unicorn Party Supplies, by Pretty My Party

Best Unicorn Party Supplies, by Pretty My Party


The unicorn trend first reared its horned head in late 2016, hitting an all-time high in April 2017. For many, unicorns evoke a sense of childlike whimsy - a time when fairy tales and dress up were part of everyday life. This trend has taken shape in many forms, leaving behind a trail of glitter, rainbows, and pastel swirls. Most notably is the food. Unicorn toast, unicorn cakes and the infamous Starbuck’s Unicorn Frappuccino all prove that is trend has serious staying power among young consumers.  


Lucky Charms Cupcakes, Neighbor Food Blog

Lucky Charms Cupcakes, Neighbor Food Blog


Remember waking up to a breakfast of magically-delicious cereal? So do millennials. That’s why consumers are increasingly reaching for boxes on store shelves. The sugary, crunchy cereal is being used in everything from ice cream to cake decorations. Millennials are even flocking to cereal cafes. The re-release of the early 2000s-favorite Oreo-O’s seals the deal on this trend.



 What’s even better than fresh baked cookies? Eating the dough straight from the bowl. And as adults, millennials can’t get enough. Edible Cookie Dough peaked in January of 2017, largely due to the opening for a dough-only shop in NYC.


Add Some Nostalgia into Your Content Strategy (without reinventing your product)

Does nostalgia marketing really work? And, more importantly, is it worth allocating marketing dollars toward a new audience longing for a simpler time? In short—yes. A study by the Journal of Consumer Research found that consumers are more likely to spend money when feeling nostalgic. Sentimentality adds value to a product over the traditional dollar amount. Nostalgia is also good at stimulating consumers whose buying habits were shaped by an economic uncertainty—much like young millennials.

Brands don’t have to roll out a new line of product packaging to become relevant to the nostalgic marketing trend. It can be as simple as positioning the product in a new throwback-friendly way.

Last fall, we teamed up with Folgers to drive in-store sales at Target for their Limited Edition Collector’s Can. The brand’s primary goal was to appeal to a younger audience, as their products were more popular among older consumers who’d been loyal to the brand for many years.

At Ahalogy, we know that one of the best ways to inspire action—and target the right audience—is by pairing our data-driven content ideas with the creative talent of influencers. Millennial influencers in our network loved the vintage-inspired product and created throwback recipes and ideas that inspired readers to buy the new can. Many of the top-performing posts included in the campaign—like Old-Fashioned Coffee Cake and Coffee Cinnamon Rolls were inspired by the influencers’ childhoods.  


Curious to see how your brand can take advantage of the nostalgia marketing trend? We’d love to throw around some ideas! Shoot us a message at