Sunday, September 30 marked the last day of the 2018 Major League Baseball (MLB) regular season. I grew up a Minnesota Twins fan and have many fond memories associated with the team; most notably seeing the team go from “worst to first” when they won the 1991 World Series.
The Twins have had plenty of notable players over the years, many of them Hall of Fame inductees. One of my most memorable players, Joe Mauer, had started playing with the Twins when I was in my mid-20s—at a time when life was pretty sweet. I was married, lived in a nice lake home, had a good job and great friends, was active in community theatre, and was training for marathons and triathlons (another passion of mine). All seemed right with the world.
If you make people feel nostalgic, your brand experience makes them feel good by association
And, as an avid baseball fan, to have this new “star” player on the team was exciting. Even better, Mauer was actually from Minnesota; our hometown boy.
On September 30, 14 years after he debuted with the team, Joe Mauer, solidified retirement rumors when he assumed his old position of catcher for one pitch. As I watched the clip over and over again, an uncontrollable wave of emotion came over me.
For me, this potential end of an era represented my own moves that I’ve made since 2004, some of them positive and some very difficult—yet it brought back so many good memories from that time. And, to be honest, one of my first thoughts was, “Where is my Mauer jersey?” which was the very first jersey, of any sports team, that I purchased.
If they’re savvy, the Twins organization and its marketing experts recognize this move for what it means for its brand, which they can capitalize on thanks to a very powerful marketing tool (and what I like to call the “sixth emotion of marketing”): nostalgia.
Blast from the Past
Blasting back to the past elicits a feeling of safety; of understanding
We see it everywhere, from classic representations of soda bottles and Target buying clothing brands that take us right back to the 1980s to the return of television shows like Roseanne (now “The Connors”) and Murphy Brown.
It’s what Forbes.com contributor Modicum calls “harnessing the power of the past.” The reason nostalgia is so powerful, says Modicom, is that experiencing it is known to have psychological benefits such as increased self-esteem and enhanced mood—even though the emotions which trigger nostalgia are often negative (sadness, loneliness, fear). “Nostalgia can literally take negative feelings and turn them positive. If you make people feel nostalgic, your brand experience makes them feel good by association,” Modicom adds.
The second part of this strategy is rooted in another influential marketing cornerstone: authenticity. Blasting back to the past elicits a feeling of safety; of understanding. The underlying message is, “X Brand gets me, because they know me.” This is something that is becoming increasingly important as consumers tune out and turn off messaging that refuses to speak to them and to their needs in a relevant, meaningful way.
Futuristic Channels, Historical Experiences
The essence of nostalgia strategy is grounded in a history of shared experiences
Of course, marketing channels are always pushing towards the future (video, social media, virtual reality), but the essence of nostalgia strategy is grounded in a history of shared experiences. When Mauer stepped onto the field in his catcher’s gear, the entire stadium shared in their individual memories and collective fandom.
Even as orchestrated as Mauer taking the field was, from resuming his place behind the plate for one pitch to his five-year-old twin daughters running out to meet him at first base (yes, he is a Minnesota Twin, from Minnesota, who had twin girls), it made an impression that fans—and ticket holders, jersey purchasers, and concessions eaters—won’t soon forget.
Now… where is my jersey???