No one is a greater champion of recycling than Hollywood.
In the past decade or so, studios have rebooted one classic after the other, including “Superman,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “X-Men,” just to name a few. The trend isn’t limited to the big screen, either. Companies in all kinds of industries are revamping, reimagining and reproducing their products, hoping to build a quick source of revenue off our collective nostalgia. Just look at last year’s Pokémon Go phenomenon.
Some reboots have been an unmitigated success—the 2009 release of “Star Trek” achieved the largest-ever U.S. opening for the franchise, raking in more than $79 million on the opening weekend—while others were gigantic flops. Look no farther than the 2006 remake of “The Wicker Man,” which didn’t recoup its $40 million budget at the box office, for an example of the latter.
Revivals of throwback brands and franchises pose an interesting question for marketers and advertisers: How do you make a marketing splash with a new product that is based on an old idea? Here are some tips and tricks.
Go Big or Go Home
It’s important to make a big splash if you’re promoting something viewers are familiar with. Marketers can use a brand’s recognizable “landmarks” to their advantage when trying to refocusing attention on a well-known concept. In 2016, Netflix got creative when advertising for its revival of “Gilmore Girls,” a television series that ended almost a decade earlier. Tapping into fan nostalgia, the streaming service brought an iconic part of the television show to life in cities around the world by encouraging select coffee shops to sell beverages in cups featuring the “Luke’s” logo, a popular element of the show, reportedly turning “200 real-world locations into Luke’s Diner.” The half-day promotion was entirely successful, and the pop-ups saw colossal lines of fans around the country. The strategy works: CNN reported that Netflix stock spiked 8% in that week alone.
Let Me Upgrade You
The Polaroid Company is another good example of how to do a reboot right. The outfit came close to declaring bankruptcy twice, first in 2001 with the rise of digital cameras, and then again in 2009 as smartphones started to replace cameras altogether. Rather than tout the high-tech quality of its cameras, Polaroid marketers went back to re-emphasize the best qualities of the original product: the fun of the suspenseful seconds waving the snapshot back and forth, waiting for it to develop, and then pinning it to the refrigerator with a magnet or stowing it in a desk drawer to be rediscovered later.
But Polaroid didn’t just make the case for the appeal of their classic product—they upgraded the old-school technology with contemporary touches, creating a mobile app that can print vintage-looking photos from your phone via Bluetooth and aestheticizing the Polaroid camera to be retro and festive. People began using Polaroid cameras at parties, for example, to incite camaraderie and nostalgia in a pocket-sized photo that will be available immediately for guests to take home.
President and CEO Scott M. Hardy explained, “Our brand’s renewed focus on product design has allowed us to bring new and exciting products—such as the Polaroid Snap+—to market that evoke an emotional connection with our consumers.” The Polaroid Snap+, which made its debut at 2016 CES, combines digital and instant photo printing in one device. So while the brand adapted to the times, it also stayed true to what had made it so successful in the past.
Pairing Up with Popular Brands That Have Stood the Test of Time
Urban Outfitters is another brand that has capitalized on the nostalgia trend by stocking their stores with products reminiscent of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. CEO Trish Donnelley noted after the start of the campaign that the company has seen a tremendous response from consumers for their throwback collaborations with adidas, Calvin Klein, and Tommy Hilfiger Jeans—think Calvin Klein’s signature waistband on loungewear or sneakers stamped with adidas’ classic trefoil logo. These companies are reintroducing nostalgia collections to appeal to older consumers while also targeting the chain’s core customers: Millennials. After the introduction of the classic collections in 2016, Urban Outfitters saw a 5 percent increase in sales, prompting them to try again in 2017 by reviving the 90’s Kipling backpack fad.
Why do people like throwbacks? Just as comfort food can bring back warm memories and an old song can bring a tear to the eye, brands also belong to a different time. Bringing them back into the present requires a careful balance of preserving the best of the old while subtly incorporating contemporary touches to entice younger audiences who have no feelings about the brand—yet.