During times of uncertainty nostalgia helps us cope.

BRIGADE BRIGADE is a brand and packaging design agency — creating award winning work for established and rising companies worldwide.

Covid-19 has impacted everything from what we wear, to how we work and especially how we shop. So, it’s no surprise that brands and packaging have been influenced by the uncertainty of the pandemic. And while some companies are focusing on color and messaging as a way to elevate the mood of their packaging, others are drawing on the past to tap into feelings of nostalgia. Research has shown that nostalgia can counteract stress, loneliness and even boredom. Familiarity is comforting. So when it feels like the world is turning upside down, brands that offer a connection to the past stand out to uneasy consumers. Here are four creative ways brands are looking back in time to offer something new.

For a brand with an established history, nostalgic packaging can signal “longevity and trust”. As Coronavirus impacted in-house dining, drive-thru ordering surged. And as brands looked for ways to create a sense of calm, some drew on their history to remind customers of better times, pre-pandemic. Taking inspiration from their 1969-1999 logo, Burger King opted to keep things simple and inviting with their first branding refresh in 20 years. Rounded shapes and organic illustrations were used to create a sense of calm and serve as a reminder of the natural and yummy food Burger King serves. The typography used in their marketing materials provides a vintage look and feel that draws on BK’s history. Through the use of nostalgia, Burger King is reminding customers of a simpler time and positioning themselves as a brand that can continue to be trusted for years to come.

Nostalgic packaging can also be used to help brands stand out on crowded shelves. Inspired by pop culture from the past, Play Brew Co. is using nostalgia to market their out-of-the-box beers. Play Brew Co describes themselves as bringing “Craft beer with a nostalgic twist, born from influential culture of the 80s & 90s”. And just one look at their beer cans shows they know their pop culture history. Their Arcade ‘86 series draws inspiration from vintage video games. Each beer label is designed to remind customers of a specific video game from the 80s: Operation Wolf, Outrun, Paperboy and Afterburner. The illustrations, fonts, and color palettes on each label not only stand out on shelves but pull consumers back in time to fond memories from their childhood.

Leveraging popular moments from the past can help consumers connect with one another and your brand. Were you Team Backstreet Boys, N’SYNC or Boyz II Men? One of Playdoh’s Grown Up Scents, 90’s edition, is reminding consumers of one of the biggest debates of our teenage years (or mine at least —Team Backstreet Boys all the way!). With names like “Dial Up Delight”, “Mall Food Court” and  “VHS Rental & Chill”, Playdoh invites customers to connect over fond, and sometimes silly, moments they may have forgotten. Nostalgia can be used as an opportunity to connect with one another through shared memories and PlayDoh’s Grown Up Scents 90s edition is looking to help start those conversations through their packaging. 

Analog technologies have been having a moment these last few years, and there’s no doubt that nostalgic trends are playing a role in their revival. Between the resurgence of vinyl to a band releasing their entire catalog on 8 track, nostalgia has had a huge impact on packaging. Kylie Cosmetics’ latest collaboration is another example of nostalgia’s influence on packaging. This year the beauty brand joined forces with the famous 80’s villain, Freddy Krueger for their Halloween collection. The collaboration uses the iconic packaging of a VHS tape to give consumers an authentic 80’s experience. Not only are consumers buying the makeup, they’re also buying the experience of unboxing a VHS tape (something younger Gen Z tweens might not be too familiar with).

Whether you’re trying to draw on consumer’s positive memories or stand out on crowded shelves, nostalgia offers brands a chance to connect with their consumer on an emotional level that can leave a lasting impression.