Victoria Li
Senior Trends Analyst, China

Recently we have seen an increasing number of Chinese young consumers love consumption related to nostalgia. The power of fond memories and beloved icons from the past make nostalgia-centric marketing campaigns resonate with young consumers. 

According to Mintel Global Consumer data, 77% of Chinese consumers say that they enjoy things that remind them of their past. From old games, animes to childhood snacks. Nostalgia is an easy way to leverage the optimistic feelings that often accompany good memories of the past. Products that remind consumers of their younger days can offer a feeling of comfort and security. 

Besides, consumers also look to their past for a shared sense of identity as well. For instance, the game Mole’s World that was once popular in China decades ago, reissued a mobile game version and went popular again. Players who once indulged in Mole’s World as children are now adults who are sharing memes of game characters and virtual farms on their social media accounts. They feel connected to the community with shared memories, which also brings a sense of belonging.

Consumers desire something new and surprising, and of good quality

We’ve seen this case:Yili QQ starand Nayuki jointly released a limited edition gift box targeted at young consumers. The gift box looks fancy and catches the eyes of young consumers as it comes in the shape ofa giant milk bottle with the slogan ‘I am still a baby’ printed on it. Inside the gift box, in addition to a bottle of milk tea, there are a few toys and snacks that remind consumers of their childhood like a yo-yo, a light gun and a diamond candy. That demonstrates how brands can leverage nostalgia elements into modern product designs. Coupling nostalgia with modern relevance could retain their long-term loyalty.

Old movies attract people as well

How can nostalgic elements such as the old movies gain traction in the market? Since we have seen quite a lot of co-branding with classic old movies or animes, and consumers are increasingly picky. Rough and ready collaborations with only the logo printed on the packaging are not impressive to consumers and have even become something boring. Brands need to constantly vie for the spotlight and incorporate it well in their product design to stand out from homogenous offerings. Also, evoking memories through various sensory experiences might be a good opportunity to tap into.

What we think

It is crucial to adapt the nostalgic stuff to the modern environment rather than directly copying it as it was. Because consumers’ needs and consumption patterns are evolving. You can’t see their expectations as people saw them decades ago. As time passes by and the industry evolves rapidly, appreciation of memories from the past does not equate to the same requirements as the past. While nostalgia can act as an emotional hook, consumers still desire something new and surprising, and of good quality. Combining senses – not limited to sight and hearing – also smell, touch and taste would work better.