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Memory Lane

Ads infused with nostalgia drive customers your way.

"Remember how it used to be?" That question can be a powerful inducement to buying a once-laborious product that has been transformed into a zippy new wonder-widget. The visual contrast can be dramatic--think of commercials for kitchen gadgets and gardening gizmos in which the old is juxtaposed with the new.

This approach might be termed "negative nostalgia." But memorabilia can provoke a strong positive response, too. Bringing back sentimental favorites of another era is a way to make the good ol' days pay off, especially for nostalgia-loving baby boomers. Check out the audio aisle at your local electronics emporium, and you'll likely find a radio housed in the retro look of a bygone era. The same goes for hardware, furniture and, of course, fashion. Advertisers are very strategic in how they push consumers' nostalgia-inducing buttons.

The late copy guru Victor Schwab recommends using this "subcutaneous advertising" approach--that is, advertising that gets under consumers' skin with recollections of old--in his seminal How to Write a Good Advertisement.

Nostalgia is a fitting subject for this month's column, as it is my last for Entrepreneur after nearly 16 years as its advertising columnist. It's been truly gratifying for me, and I hope it's been informative and insightful for you.


Jerry Fisher is a freelance advertising copywriter and author of Creating Successful Small Business Advertising.

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This article was originally published in the September 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Memory Lane.

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