How nostalgia can be the catalyst for new branding and design opportunities.
Gameboys, faux fur bucket hats and Dunkaroos are no longer a thing of the past. Full House came back, so did Saved by the Bell and for better or worse (mostly worse) low rise jeans and JNCOs are even making a return. Take a look around and you’ll see nostalgia is currently in millennial and 90’s kids’ corner. But for how long?
Trends are tricky. Brands, products and people in pop culture can have huge moments that eventually get revived or quickly fade into obscurity. Take the online game Wordle for instance. Its popularity is already waning and it’s hard to say if it will have Sudoku’s staying power. Culture tends to be cyclical, which explains why Delia’s and Planet Hollywood are back on our radars. Pretty soon we’re going to be spraying ourselves with CK One and Gap Dream.
What’s interesting is unlike the actual 90’s, we have social media and internet that doesn’t require a dial up, making way for communities online to save the things they love from being discontinued and rally to bring other things back. Taco Bell revived the Mexican Pizza after 170,000 fans signed an online petition. Twinkies made an iconic return to shelves after public outrage over their removal. New Yorkers saved the Strand Bookstore from shutting its doors. In the Netflix documentary “The Last Blockbuster,” viewers learn about the last remaining Blockbuster location. Due to the film’s popularity, people are hustling to keep the iconic video store alive.
As we go through this interesting — and fun — generational and cultural revival, there’s lots of room for old brands to be made new, and for brands that have fallen out of favor to find their footing and reintroduce themselves in more equitable and sustainable ways. Clearly, things like Nickelodeon Gak are purely silly and might not have the power to solve the world’s problems, but for ThoughtMatter’s team of designers, writers and strategists it’s exciting to consider the possibilities of bringing brands back with purpose.
We’re keeping a close eye on the promises brands are making as they reemerge. We’re equipped and excited to take brands with equity in their name and relaunch them in ways that shine a light on and attempt to solve unmet needs in society. We’re ready to participate and take action, as long as we can take breaks to tend to our Tamagotchi’s.
Curious about the rise, fall and revival of popular brands and trends, we polled the studio on brands they’d like to see come back and those that had fifteen minutes of fame, never to be heard from again. So, grab a hot pocket, wash it down with some Surge and dig in.
Dylan Stiga, Senior Strategist, Integrated Marketing
Before trampoline gyms were all the rage for kids, there was Discovery Zone. It felt like you were teleported to an episode of a Nickelodeon game show like Double Dare or Guts.
Katie Johnsmeyer, Account Director
I miss KangaROOS shoes. I think they were popular in the 70s, then made a resurgence in the early 2000s, so they’re probably due for a resurgence in the next 5 years or so! They were cool sneakers in bright colors and had a zipper pocket on the side. I remember the schtick being you could hide “naughty” things in the pocket, but I was a good kid, so I put coins in mine.
Ben Greengrass, Creative Director
One brand that used to be massive and synonymous with photography in my youth was Kodak. It was much loved and ruled the roost. It once had 80% of the market but no more. Polaroid has done a much better job moving with the times in my opinion.
Olivia Kane, Senior Designer
Lip Smacker! All my friends had different flavors. They were super easy to throw into your pocket and were natural conversation starters. Would love to see a new Lip Smacker line that came in contemporary, not-so-nauseating flavors. Maybe lychee and brown sugar? Cardamom and jasmine? Hibiscus and ginger?
Sam Barbagiovanni, Design Director
I wouldn’t be mad if Wonder Balls made a comeback. Who doesn’t love a good jingle? Plus, we could all use a little pre-planned surprise and delight in our lives. Sure, the chocolate shell balls with candy inside were a choking hazard for kids, but what if they were reimagined for adults? For instance, a Wonder Balls x Iron Chef collaboration. That said, the name could also use some workshopping. “I wonder what’s in a Wonder Ball?”
Alyssa Gerasimoff, Junior Strategist
I immediately think of shoe trends. The revival of Crocs, UGGs, Birkenstocks, KEENs and absurd platforms. Then there is the whole world of sneakers. Our society’s obsession with shoes is extremely fascinating and I think there is a lot, in terms of nostalgia, to be unpacked there.
Phillip Lauria, Strategy Director
I remember watching Magic School Bus a lot when I was sick. Could be a fun reboot to take us all through different metaverses and online worlds.