The Use of Nostalgia in Marketing to California Seniors


Today’s seniors look back on their lives with a greater sense of nostalgia than previous generations did.

More happened to today’s seniors during their lifetimes than any other time in history. And smart marketers can use the positive part of their memories in connecting with them and connecting them to their products and services. The key is using nostalgia authentically so that seniors think “These people get me. They know who I am, they know what shaped me. I’m more inclined to listen to them, and more inclined to believe them”

According to Teodor Gergov in his research study entitled Sentimentality and Nostalgia in Elderly People,

“Nostalgia provides a link between our past and present lives. Nostalgia may provide us with a positive view of the past and this could help to give us a greater sense of continuity to our lives.” He adds that “Older people are more inclined to exaggerate the beauty, harmony, and elegance of the objects they had perceived when younger.”

Is it any wonder that using nostalgia in marketing to seniors is such a powerful tool?

To truly understand seniors, you need to know about and relate to their past. And no one describes childhood in the 50’s better than the author, Bill Bryson.

In his wonderful book entitled The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, Bryson gives the most nostalgic, humorous and accurate description of growing up in that decade. The book is absolutely must reading for anyone marketing to seniors.

Seniors were around for the Civil Rights, Voting Rights, and Women’s Rights movements of the 60’s, political activism and protests, moon landings, Watergate, Woodstock, the pill and “free love”, the advent of computers and hand-held calculators, Motown, and of course the British Invasion– led by the greatest rock band in history, The Beatles. They were also affected by drugs, anti-war protests, inner-city riots and by tragic events such as the Cold War, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and political assassinations. Seniors have been shaped by these events and their attitudes, values, and behaviors are distinctly different from those who have come before them or after them. Whether the past events were good or bad, seniors are from a generation with a fondness for change. They are extremely proud of their generation and what they accomplished. They form an emotional bond with marketers who remind them of their amazing past.

Seniors who grew up in California or moved to the state in the 50’s or 60’s have a particularly distinctive nostalgic view of their past. The relaxed and casual surfing culture, drive-in theaters, drive-through restaurants, the hippie culture, skateboards, and a generally more liberal attitude were synonymous with California. And California music, which featured bands like The Beach Boys, The Grateful Dead, The Doors, Buffalo Springfield, The Monkees, and The Jefferson Airplane, provided the soundtrack for California’s youth at that time. When it comes to marketing to seniors, no state has more positive imagery to draw upon which elicits more wonderful affection for the past as California.

Photo by Sheila Fitzgerald

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