Brand Throwbacks Capture Better Times

7 years ago by in Featured Articles, Marketing Tagged: ,

Earlier this week, my wife went for her post-Christmas shopping extravaganza at our local Target store armed with my credit card and wide eyes and dreams of big deals.

When she came home to me watching the kids, imagine my surprise when she pulled something from the bag that got me excited.

What was this amazing and captivating item? It was a Pepsi Cola can?

Mountain Dew Throwback is one I am too young to remember

Come again?

If you haven’t seen them yet, Pepsico has produced two throwback cans this holidays season. One is the classic red, white and blue can I grew up with and the other is the down-home country bumpkin Mountain Dew can. Each is for a limited time only and includes soda made with – hold your hat – real sugar. That’s right, not corn syrup like all soda is today. Instead, it’s truly old school using pure cane sugar.

The term throwback isn’t new, of course. All three major league sports leagues – the NFL, MLB and NBA – coined the phrase when they learned us fans would fork over a premium to buy old jerseys from our team’s yesteryear. I, for one, have several ranging from my brown “Taco Bell” 1984 San Diego Padres Steve Garvey jersey, to my 1963 Lance “Bambi” Alworth Chargers jersey.

Other marketing departments at big brands have recognized that we all love to reminisce about days long ago. Days when we were skinnier, happier, and younger.

As a marketer, I am fascinated by this. Brands often move forward to keep up with the times to only run “throwback” promotions that create demand and new excitement for their products. For those that lived them originally, they bring back good memories. For those that don’t remember them, the nostalgia and “newness” of the old branding is exciting.

In the case of Pepsi, I have to wonder  it’s a test too. With many people now demanding products made with natural products, is this a test ballon wrapped in a nostalgic wrapper? Could the minds at Pepsi being testing us? 7-up changed back to original and all natural ingredients a few years ago and sales have been up a bit.

1984 "Throwback" Dan Fouts Jersey.

I am not sure but it’s very interesting to me when companies go back to old labels or brands. It also makes me wonder more and more why we – as consumers – insist good brands with good products change their visual marketing to please us. Why should we demand change if the product continues to be all that we remember?

Pepsi’s limited promotion may drive a fair amount of public relations wins and social media buzz, but I wonder where the product is going.

I for one would love soda, which we know will never be healthy, to go back to its original natural ingredients. That way when we do splurge, we know it’s not on high fructose corn syrup.

But one day, perhaps my kids will be writing a blog post on how they miss HFCS. Can you imagine?



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2 Responses to “Brand Throwbacks Capture Better Times”

January 1, 2010

I think part of the consumerist behavior we exhibit is driven by our core visual-learning gene. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Orange Miami Dolphins' uniforms. But that's not their throwback style. It's just a visually arresting form that captures my interest and cements an already focused brand loyalty.

Pepper Ph.D. does various can designs and I gobble them up because I already like the brand.

I'm not sure that effecting design change in a product I loathe would affect me one way or the other. I know it wouldn't make me want to buy the 'bad' product, but I don't even think it makes me soften at all.

I don't like Burger King and having the retro burger look didn't work for me. But when McDonald's does it, I squeal like a school girl and can actually remember the taste of Big Mac in my mouth. Then I sing the jingle (two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun) and remote start the car.

What does this say? Am I typical? I'm not sure. As an ad copywriter for decades, I had believed I was empathetic with prospective buyers. But maybe I'm just as wonky as the rest of the consumers and THAT's the only throwback constant that matters.

Good post.

PRGully PRGully
January 1, 2010

Good points Jeff. The visual nature of humans is pretty remarkable. We do react to things that are different or stick out, hence the orange Dolphins unis.

Because I am such a sports fanatic, many of my examples come from the sports world and uniforms.

Another great example from the food industry are Oreos. Nabisco colors the filling orange for Halloween and then red for the holidays. My kids swear they taste better…but in reality it's the exact same product. My guess is they see an uptick in sales when they change the colors.

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