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Throwback Thoughts: Nostalgia Sells on National Retro Day

Feb. 27 is National Retro Day — and if there’s one thing we know as a marketing and branding agency, it’s that nostalgia sells. We’re drawn to reminiscing about retro products for a lot of reasons, but mostly because the cherished memories of the past transport us to simpler times filled with innocence and joy. There’s a comforting familiarity in the design, packaging and even the scent of these relics from bygone eras. It reminds us of the people we were and the experiences we shared. Nostalgia allows us to temporarily escape the present and bask in the warm glow of fond memories, offering a sense of reassurance and belonging in an ever-changing world. While retro is defined as “recent” past, we have a few folks on staff who may fall into a more “classic” category. Here are a just a few of the products our staff enjoyed reminiscing about.

 

Stacy Bogard

Senior content strategist

Growing up in East Lansing during the ’80s and early ’90s, a lot of my designer-label clothes were hand-me-downs from one of my babysitters. To my mother’s horror, I think I wore the Guess jean overalls almost every day of seventh grade to the point of Scotch-taping the strap buckles when the bottom metal pieces came off. Plus, who else remembers Umbro shorts and soccer slides with socks? P.S. I never played soccer outside of gym class.

Yet one of my retro favorites is an item I still have in my closet. It’s a little worse for wear, but I can still pile all the beach or gym gear into my trusty green Esprit tote bag. While there were print ads in the mainstays on my nightstand, Seventeen and YM magazines, and commercials on MTV and other stations, the reason I and everyone I knew wanted one was because it was the bag the popular girls at school carried. They were a status symbol in the halls of Hannah Middle School but allowed for individuality with the variety of colors and prints available.

The company has been through several highs and lows, but it’s comforting that the brand still exists and has (mostly) revived the logo style from the early days.

Christopher Nagy

Senior editor

My first legitimate paid employment came in the form of a paper route, first as a weekly chore delivering the Trenton Times before graduating to the workaday routine for the afternoon edition of the Detroit News. Still numerous years away from being eligible for a driver’s license, I only had two options at my disposal to apply my trade: invest in shoe leather or throw those bulky canvas saddlebags on my bike rack and pedal around town like a sucker. There had to be a better way.

And then it happened.

I must have blinked at some point in 1984 — because when I opened my eyes, it seemed like every third kid under the age of 16 was suddenly whirring across town atop a cherry-red Honda Spree moped. This was the answer to my prayers. If I could get my hands on a Honda Spree, I could deliver my papers at warp speeds topping at least 20 mph! Not to mention I’d have a pretty nifty mode of transport in my off-the-clock hours to stock up on comic books and candy during my frequent trips to Gerlach Drugs.

Even Lou Reed appeared in a TV commercial for Honda scooters in the mid-1980s. Today, celebrities make product endorsements more frequently than they change their underwear, but this was still a time when having your face or your song in a televised advertisement was considered a high-treason sellout sacrilege. If the ultrahip arbiter of detached cool was hocking Honda on the tube to his familiar tune “Walk on the Wild Side,” there had to be something to it, right?

This was the biggest investment in my life until that point, so it was definitely something I needed to run by my parents. I still recall my dad’s words to me as I presented the vast benefits that would be laid out before me as a proud Honda Spree owner.

“Son, are you out of your mind?”

 

Kathryn Aspin

Design director

Retro brands like Gateway and Nintendo 64 evoke cherished memories of my childhood. I vividly recall the excitement of our first family computer, a Gateway, with its iconic cow-spotted box that captivated my imagination. It felt like a portal to endless possibilities, sparking my curiosity and love for technology.

Simultaneously, my obsession with the Nintendo 64 knew no bounds. Playing “Super Mario” and “Mario Kart” on the Nintendo 64, and trying to beat Bowser, were some of the most exhilarating moments of my youth. As the youngest of my siblings, I always gave my best to beat them in these games, creating unforgettable moments of friendly competition and bonding.

Every visit to the video store was a thrill as I eagerly browsed the shelves for new game releases, renting them to embark on thrilling adventures with friends and family. These nostalgic moments of gaming bliss and exploration hold a special place in my heart, reminding me of simpler times filled with joy and wonder.

Mary Gajda

Publications and events director

Beauty advertising worked on me — I was a fan of scents. Back then, I was intrigued by “If a man you never met before suddenly gives you flowers, that’s Impulse.” Today, that would be grounds for a restraining order.

Likewise, Charlie perfume had its hold on me, as did Love’s Baby Soft. I started working very young, at 11 years old, to be able to purchase these coveted items for myself. The one product that I really wanted, but never got, was the 1980s back-to-school staple Trapper Keeper notebook and binder, which sold for $4.85 at the time. I guess boys were more important than my school work at the time.

Other notables from our staff:

 

Tiffany Dowling

President and CEO

The Atari 2600 gaming console (I couldn’t stop playing “Frogger”), the “Grease” soundtrack album and my cassette recorder for all those mixed tapes of the ’80s.

Cameron Needham

Vice president of marketing technology and development

NetZero. We all received at least five CDs every month in the mail for NetZero internet to get on AOL.

 

Shelley Davis Boyd

Chief strategy officer

Brooke Shields for Calvin Klein jeans. “Nothing comes between me and my Calvins.” It was soooo cool in the ’80s. She was young, and it felt like she was being sassy.

 

Dave Busch

Senior creative strategist

I have a preference for button-up shirts with giant collars from the ’70s. And I just cannot stop buying boat shoes. My boat shoes are so retro. Most of them I bought used from eBay or Etsy.

 

As you read through, what brands come to mind? Is there a way the feel-good endorphins that come from moments of nostalgia can tie in with your business brand? Reach out to our team at info@m3group.biz for your branding and marketing needs.