Retro Marketing and Nostalgia Part 2: Movies, Music, and Ads

In the first part of this blog post, Retro Marketing and Nostalgia Part 1: Video Games, I talked about Retro Marketing (Flashback Branding) and how it has made its way into the public sector once again. Now it’s time to continue that conversation and mention the Retro Marketing that’s going on in our popular films, music, and advertisements!

The recent influx of comic-to-film adaptations is simply staggering.

The recent influx of comic-to-film adaptations is simply staggering.

What’s nostalgic about the movie business? Well, we’re definitely seeing a resurgence of the classic superhero. That kind of goes without saying. Whether it’s Batman or Superman or Aquaman or whoever, the infatuation we seem to have with on-screen heroes these days certainly resembles a type of retro-obsession. The recent influx of comic-to-film adaptations is simply staggering. While their popularity is due partly to their reliance on “wow”-inducing special effects, it’s due more directly to the emotional undercurrent of the stories. On-screen superheroes (particularly those adapted from graphic novels and comics) represent both our aspirations and our shortcomings. Fictional heroes and villains cater to our understanding of what happens when the human ego goes unchecked. Thanks to our superheroes, we learn as kids what the consequences are for our actions and how the world can be a better place if our endeavors serve the greater good.

Which is crap, of course! That’s why we need those movies. We need to believe in their lie—if we want to stay optimistic, that is. And we contribute generously to their $100-million box-office revenue on opening weekend. Such is the extent of our fondness for nostalgia!

Modern rock bands like The Killers borrow the sonic qualities of their retro-influences.

Modern rock bands like The Killers borrow the sonic qualities of their retro-influences.

It’s kind-of similar with music. There are plenty of bands around these days whose sound could easily be described as “retro,” in that their approach to songwriting calls to mind the styles and movements of earlier eras. Over the past decade or so, modern rock has seen quite an influx of bands that borrow the sonic qualities of their influences. Artists like The Killers, The Strokes, Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Franz Ferdinand, and Jet—to name only a few—have managed to gain a significant following in recent years, and their success is usually attributed to the revivalist spirit of their music. Even though they’re likely influenced by an array of musical styles, their sound owes much of its signature to the post-punk and new wave artists of the late ‘70s and ‘80s: Joy Division, New Order, The Psychedelic Furs, The Cure, Echo & The Bunnymen, and the like. I for one am admittedly pleased to see the legacy of these latter artists live on in the arena of modern music.

They say “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Well, then we’re definitely flattering the hell out of previous generations, because our obsession with the styles and trends of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s is somewhat obvious. Still, our modern repackaging of vintage themes boasts a certain amount of innovation on our part.

Nostalgic for old-time dialing? There's an app for that!

Nostalgic for old-time dialing? There's an app for that!

There are actually iPhone apps available now that convert the layout of the on-screen number pad to rotary-phone style—which, in my opinion, is equal parts baffling and intriguing. Rotary layout is inherently cumbersome by today’s standards, but I’d probably download it in a heartbeat if I owned an iPhone. Also curious is the geekishly fun approach to advertising that imposes retro aesthetics on modern products and brands. Check out these mockup print advertisements developed by an ad agency in San Paolo if you’re curious to know what ads for Facebook, YouTube and Skype would have looked like if such networks were around in the ‘50s. Space-age stuff, lemme tell ‘ya!

So, I guess this concludes my overview of Retro Marketing. I could bring up several other examples, but I’m sure you get the point. In my eyes, our retro-obsession is nothing but a good thing. I love that the entertainment world has taken it upon itself to revisit some of the classic traditions, trends, and themes that so many of us grew up with.

What are your thoughts on nostalgia? Sure, it’s a great selling point, but at the same time it’s something so much more! Right?

Or am I just being sentimental about all this?

Image Credits

Joseph Giorgi

Joseph is the head of the Media Team at Quality Logo Products. He's a video specialist, blogger, perfectionist, and all-around likeable guy. When he's not busy focusing on the nitty-gritty details of his written and visual work, he's normally listening to bad 80s music and scouring the internet for useless information on useless subjects. You can also connect with Joe on Google+.


  1. Chase

    I love retro games! I still play my Original Nintendo at least one a week and my Sega significantly more. It is so much fun!

  2. Scooby DOO!

    People strive to be unique and stand out these days. No one wants to be named John, and everyone strives to be “cool.” It’s no wonder why then, that retro is so popular; its generally loud (think 80’s), its different, and it sends a message that you are not mainstream, you are, “uniquely you”. But with everyone doing it these days, retro is now just mainstream. What will be the next trend? Who knows. But I’d definitely like to see a cartoon that’s a cartoon, not some HD crap-ola, that tries to teach me something. Give me Sylvester, the road runner, SOMETHING!

    Hey, Merry Xmass people. Donate this year, even if it’s just a $1. The world needs your help.

  3. Stantz

    I really enjoy ’50s style ads for modern-day products — it brings an odd sense of unnecessary nostalgia (if THAT makes any sense!). I like the mock-ups of pseudo-50s movie posters too!

    • JJ "Suite G"

      Those posters are fantastic! I’ll be using them as desktop backgrounds for sure.

  4. Cybernetic SAM

    The Killers really!? Anyway, I am definitely an indie/folk and classic rock kind of gal, so now that all these trendy indie bands that are imposing a retro style I have to say that i have fallen victim to fashion, which is unusual for me, but something about the style and retro tune that I can’t help myself but to love it. Man I want a rotary ap on my phone! I think the whole nostalgia factor is what is going to landmark generation Y, by that I mean really every other generation up until this one has made (for better or worse) historical landmark in fashion, media, and even marketing. What our generation has done is honed in on their success gave it a little spit shine and used it. I for one think it is genius. Even though as I said in yesterday’s post that I feel as though that is our tragedy is that we are all the calico product of former generations, really with no certain identity but so far it has also been our strength at least in the marketing world. Great Post!

  5. Bret Bonnet

    Being that one of my all-time favorite movies is “Old School” I guess you can say I’m a SUCKER for nostalgia and retro-branding. Wait a minute… that movie has NOTHING to do with retro-marketing above and beyond the title of the movie containing the word “old” in it – JK! 🙂

    Seriously though, when are all these comic-to-film adaptations going to stop? Once you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. Besides maybe Batman and Spider Man; I can think of SEVERAL comic-to-film adaptations that should have never seen the lights of the cutting room floor:

    – The Hulk (x2)
    – The Punisher (x2)
    – Spawn
    – Iron Man 2
    – The Green Lantern (Pending)
    – Thor (Pending)
    – The Green Lantern (Pending)
    – Daredevil
    – Elektra

    … There is nothing wrong with remaking a classic, but kind of like the retro video games and other items that have slowly been making a come back these days, it’s important to not throw out EVERYTHING that made the classic great. Show it some respect, improve upon it, but don’t just made a D rated product and slap a popular label on it in hope it will sell well.


    PS. Sorry Vern!

    • JJ "Suite G"

      Even though I just wrote extensively on the subject, I’m actually not the biggest fan of superhero films either–and that’s putting it lightly. I understand their appeal, but they’ve run their course. It’s a recipe for disaster when creativity and storytelling come secondary to an overbloated production budget, which is sadly the case in most adaptations. Same goes for remakes.

  6. Vernon

    The cynical nerd in me has no choice but to agree w/how comic books/movies market heroes as do-gooders. Honestly Superman would have been an all around sports star breaking all kinds of records*. Batman would have died from a drug overdose in his late 20’s. Scott Pilgrim would have left Romona alone after his battle w/the Hipster.

    Music has lost its originality a long time ago. Producers today get paid millions of dollars a year for “sampling” music that was made 30-50 years ago. A baseline here an entire beat there and now you have new music for the masses.

    • JJ "Suite G"

      I’m glad you denoted Superman’s “records” with a “*”, ‘cuz it would definitely be unfair to let him compete under traditional rule-sets.

      I’m not sure that Bruce Wayne would have died of an overdose, but I’m positive he would have found a way to squander his entire fortune somehow. Most likely on an over-financed advanced weaponry R&D department. I know Wayne Enterprises is primarily a defense contractor, but can the U.S. military seriously afford the stuff he manufactures? And it’s not like he’d be allowed to sell to foreign territories.

      And you’re right, Ramona’s totally not worth it.

  7. Cybernetic SAM

    I mostly agree with what you say, however the music in some cases, no. By which I mean: yes, most main stream music is just generic minutiae that is spoon fed to the masses. However, every once in a while there is a heartbeat in music so subtle that in most cases it goes unnoticed, and that is the small glimmer of hope left.


    Keep em coming! Another great post!

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