To capture the attention of Millennial audiences, give one best practice or strategy for using nostalgia to market your small business?

To help you capture the attention of Millennial audiences, we asked Millennials and marketing professionals this question for their best ideas. From pairing nostalgia with dry humor to reintroducing an old product alongside the modernized version, there are several pieces of advice that may help your business appeal to Millennials.

READ ALSO: Millennials opt out of housing market, driving growth of multifamily market

Here are eight ideas for capturing the attention of Millennial audiences:

  • Pair Nostalgia with a Dry Humor
  • Reach Millennials with Nostalgic Music Hits
  • Take Your Audience Back to a Positive Time
  • Brainstorm a Marketing Tree
  • Host Competitions to Let People Share Fond Memories
  • Incorporate the 90’s Hottest Trends
  • Identify Comforting Memories Relevant to Millennial Audiences
  • Reintroduce an Old Product Alongside the Modernized Version

Capture millennial audiences: 8 ways to use nostalgia in your marketing strategy

Pair Nostalgia with a Dry Humor

Millennials have a really dry, self-deprecating sense of humor, and pairing that with the comfort of nostalgia is a great strategy for marketing to that audience.

Instead of just connecting your brand to a positive piece of nostalgia, poke fun at something that was beloved but seems cheesy or funny in retrospect. Beanie Babies comes to mind as an example—well loved, super trendy during a specific time, but it is bittersweet and funny to think of how quickly that bubble burst. This can be a great way to capitalize on being ahead of trends or a brand that is timeless—by comparing your brand to a “trend” that ultimately fizzled, you can reinforce your staying power against the competition.

Grey Idol, altLINE Sobanco


Reach Millennials with Nostalgic Music Hits

Incorporate nostalgic music geared toward millennials in your advertising. For example, suppose our sustainable diaper brand wanted to play on this strategy—we could use an NSYNC song to explain how babies can say ‘Bye Bye Bye’ to plastic diapers that are unbreathable. Music is a simple way to elicit nostalgic memories and emotions for a specific generation.

Amrita Saigal, Kudos


Take Your Audience Back to a Positive Time

Nostalgia is a powerful tool for building positive brand connotations. After very few touchpoints, it can help you build a lasting connection with those who encounter you. It reminds an audience of simpler times; childhood memories, time spent with family, and happy moments from the past. Many brands have engineered their marketing strategy in order to leverage nostalgia—often to great effect.

Coca Cola, for example, aligns itself closely with the festive holiday season. The brand uses the image of Santa Claus in order to create a link between happy childhood memories and drinking their beverage. Even small businesses can learn from Coca Cola’s success. To capture the attention of a millennial audience, identify the core memories, events, or objects that resonate with them. You could use a certain kind of music, or even a dance like the Harlem Shake. If you take your audience back to a time that they’d like to relive, that positivity will carry over directly into your business.

Max Wesman, GoodHire


Brainstorm a Marketing Tree

Create a marketing tree. First, research nostalgic activities, places, pictures, music, products, habits, and trends between the late 90s and early 00s. Next, connect these points to your small business’s target audience, and see which ones are closest to it—those will be your priority. Finally, you will brainstorm ways of bonding that nostalgic element with what your business has to offer. It doesn’t have to be a direct link with the product or service.

The relation can be based on aesthetics, a small reference in the format you choose (video for YouTube, TikTok; Instagram Stories or image/description for Instagram, a blog post, Facebook post, website), or a one-time campaign that includes a multitude of nostalgic references. Millennials tend to use Instagram and TikTok most, so make sure your strategy uses these platforms as it can be a fruitful and natural way of tapping into that nostalgia (especially TikTok, which is known for operating on that sentimentality).

Nicole Ostrowska, Zety


Host Competitions to Let People Share Fond Memories

Host Throwback Thursday competitions. A great strategy for using nostalgia to market your small business is to have a TBT contest for your audience every week and let them share their personal nostalgia. By doing this, you’re marketing your small business as a hub for happiness and engagement and growing your audience and business. Because nostalgia is such a personal thing, the best strategy for nostalgia marketing in order to be effective is to let each person express what is most nostalgic for them. Hosting TBT competitions is a great way to get your small business well-known and well-loved by a growing audience base who wants to share their happy memories.

Staci Brinkman, Sips by


Incorporate the 90’s Hottest Trends

Millennials had a lot of fun and memorable experiences in the 90s, wherein most of us were in high school. As a Millennial business leader, I try to incorporate some of the 90’s hottest trends such as poems, pop girl and boy band songs, love letters, and branded merch in our small business marketing campaigns. Whether your small business involves selling a product or offering a service, you can catch the attention of Millennials by making them remember anything about the 90s.

Lorraine Daisy Resuello, Connection Copilot


Identify Comforting Memories Relevant to Millennial Audiences

Identify memories relevant to Millennial audiences. Every generation has memories that are special to them. Revisit the childhood and youthful years of your target groups to detect what objects, people, and pictures they will be happy to see again. The same applies to the trends they may be happy to relive. Focus on the things they already know are great to implement them in your marketing campaigns. Connect your brand with positive concepts or ideas from the past. Feelings of comfort and security triggered by those ideas will be immediately identified with your brand.

Making us feel good, cozy, and relaxed, nostalgia marketing is really powerful. It can be compared to the advertising equivalent of comfort food. We all love it.

Agata Szczepanek, Resume Now


Reintroduce an Old Product Alongside the Modernized Version

One of the best ways to utilize nostalgia as a small business marketing tool is to reintroduce previous best-selling products, but with a modern update. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to create a whole new aspect to your product, rather you can ‘tweak’ the product to fit within the zeitgeist of the day.

This could be as simple as repurposing a previously well-received product from the 90’s/early 2000s to fit with a modern cultural artifact. For example, side-by-side video comparisons with how the product has changed over time, evoking the sense of nostalgia as to what the product used to be. This can then set the foundation for a re-run of the product as it was, not as it currently is.

Ashleigh Duggan, Air Experiences



Terkel creates community-driven content featuring expert insights. Sign up at to answer questions and get published.