If there’s one thing that is becoming more certain in this brave new digital world we are living it, it’s how much we idolise the past. Legions of adults still take to the streets to catch the Pokémon that defined their youth, while the eagerly anticipated releases of films in the Terminator and Rambo franchises have fans excited to reunite with characters from the 1980s.

Companies have been getting in on it too, with many well-known brands harking back to their past or the community’s past in order to use the power of nostalgia to reinvigorate customers.  

Why Do Companies Rebrand?

There are many ways in which brands can rebrand themselves. Sometimes a rebrand works to respond to the customer – as M&S and Wilko both rebranded to their shortened name due to responding to what customers already called them, while Spin Palace rebranded as Spin Casino in order to make it clearer to fans what they offered – an especially striking move given how they were one of the oldest casino brands in New Zealand. Meanwhile, John Lewis and Waitrose rebranded to add ‘&Partners’ to make it clearer that they stood for equitable treatment of staff and worked with the cooperative attitudes originally set up by the company founder.

These rebrands all had reasons and helped customers understand the brand better, but does rebranding for nostalgia work the same way?

Reconnecting with the Retro Rebrand?

2016 saw the Co-Op rebrand back to its roots with the 1960s design, while Natwest made similar moves in the same year. In a tumultuous time for the business, nostalgia can work to remind people of past successes, while also distancing the brand from some present missteps. Coca-Cola uses nostalgia every Christmas, at the perfect time of year to rekindle old fond memories when it wheels out its 1930s style design. 2017 saw Kodak rebrand to look more like its 1970s self – and when it was probably at its most powerful. The rebrand would work to help keep the brand in our minds and associate it with its victories and not the failure to keep up that it is perhaps best known for now. Disney constantly taps into its vault of nostalgia, reintroducing films every so often to keep the brand as one we associate with warm memories as it nears its 100th year in operation.

In reality, a retro rebrand could benefit almost any business. Even a new business could use recognisable imagery from the past to bring some nostalgia to customers. There are common themes we associate with each decade so, to celebrate something specific, marketing strategies could feature elements of additional branding that speaks to these decades.

Rebranding works well to give a company a story and to help reframe it. If the customer base or product type has changed, a rebrand might work well. But nostalgic rebrands work best when a company wants to reconnect with its own past and the version of themselves that its customers might remember fondly from some time ago.