Harking back to heritage – how legacy brands are bringing back nostalgia

Harking back to heritage – how legacy brands are bringing back nostalgia

As you’d expect from a beauty journalist that’s been in the game for 16 years, I have a shelf of perfumes and scents ranging as far as the eye can see. However, like many consumers, male and female, I have just a few that I actually use day in, day out, the rest often left redundant except for a rare spritz here or there. And I’m the same with lipsticks and foundation. Try as I might to diversify with the latest name on the block – I haven’t succumbed to Kylie Cosmetics as yet – I always go back to my tried and tested heritage brands. Why? In one word – memories. 

Indeed, as is oft the case with female – and to an extent, male – consumers, the products used in the first heady days of their teenage or early twenties personal care discovery, are the ones that become lifelong favourites. A mere whiff of a certain shampoo or fragrance, or the color of a certain lipstick, can evoke nostalgia for one’s long lost youth. Therefore, it may come as no surprise that as the financial markets flounder following on from plummeting sales due to COVID-19, there is a perceptible shift in the focus on said heritage brands. Why? Money talks. And as consumers the world over grapple with job losses and plunging disposable income, the main heritage brand fan club, the Gen X demographic, are undoubtedly the audience that has the most secure finances to burn. 

Legacy brands have proven themselves resilient to even the biggest of economic turmoil, and it seems that the companies behind them are increasingly willing to place their bets on these tried and tested products in the wake of the latest crisis, and the buyers are lapping it up. Over in the U.S. Coty’s Calvin Klein was bringing back Gen X supermodel favorite Christy Turlington Burns, alongside her husband Actor Edward Burns, to once again promote the Eternity fragrance. Having starred in the very first ad campaign for the scent back in 1988, and again in 2014 and 2016, Coty is cleverly not only tapping into the nostalgia of the scent itself, but also the memory-evoking allure of Turlington Burn’s ongoing association with the product. 

The nostalgia effect works for personal care too. Over in Australia one eagle eyed shopper highlighted the re-emergence of Revlon’s Flex shampoo and conditioner, found at The Reject Shop, with her online excitement causing a flurry of women on social media lauding the brand for its smell and efficacy. Capitalizing on the boom in demand for bolstered hygiene routines in the wake of the pandemic, Unilever too has harked backed to favorites of old, with its Lifebuoy brand set to make a return to the UK following its departure from the market in 1990s. Clearly keen to not let its re-entry go unnoticed, the personal care kingpin is marking the launch with a £12 million advertising campaign.

Of course, while targeting the more cash-rich Gen X team is one thing, a truly savvy approach is covering all bases – promoting nostalgia heavy legacy brands in a way that will also entice a new demographic to its buying roster. Step up Estée Lauder and Lancôme. Both brands have been busy on the promotion trail for products in their umbrella that have stood the test of time, and both brands have actioned these promotions with a clear and distinctive focus on immersive digital experiences. Lancôme, for example, is set to tout its Advanced Génifique product, launched back in 2009, via a virtual flagship store, exclusive to Singapore. And while the initial product formula may have been launched some 11 years ago, the store allows the digitally obsessed era to experience it in new and exciting ways. Personality tests? Sure. Virtual skincare consultations? Of course. Livestream sessions with local celebs? Obviously. Estée Lauder, meanwhile, has gone off in another digital direction. Having launched the latest version of its hero little brown bottle, Advanced Night Repair, back in 1982, Lauder wasn’t content with just relying on nostalgia to push the product, instead continuing its industry crossover with the gaming world. Indeed, the company has launched games onto its ANRcade microsite, named Beauty Bounce and Repair Racer, with each having a different style of play, giving more information about the products. A savvy move when you hear stats such as the gaming world is set to reach 3 billion by 2023, according to Newzoo research.

So while Gen X may have the cash to unleash, the upsurge of nostalgic heritage promotions is undoubtedly set to benefit from this spending prowess. However, by having both Gen Z and Gen X in the palm of their hands with a multi-disciplinary advertising approach, heritage brands may just emerge from the pandemic unscathed, with old and new fans to boot. 

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