Christmas time is filled with nostalgia (Branfman, 1954) and we long to feel the ‘Christmas magic’ that excited us as children. Engaging in nostalgia makes us feel good – our memories become exaggerated in their perfection and positivity (Holak & Havlena, 1998). For me, the Coca Cola advert evokes strong memories of my anticipation as a child during the Christmas season – the advert makes me feel happy and carefree. But why do I feel like this? How does nostalgia actually work in advertising?
In my final Christmas-themed blog, I will explore the concept of nostalgia in advertising by examining my own reactions to the ‘Holidays are Coming’ Coca Cola advert.
What is nostalgia?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines nostalgia as “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past” (OED, 2012).
Nostalgia and Consumer Psychology
Research has not extensively studied nostalgia in a consumer context (Havlena & Holak, 1991). However, in this context, nostalgia refers to advertising products in a way that attempts to evoke memories that create positive feelings (Sierra & McQuitty, 2007). Often, consuming the products themselves can elicit memory recall (Havlena & Holak, 1991). For me, eating chocolate coins evokes the same childhood feelings of Christmas that I experience upon watching the Coca Cola advert.
Brands themselves can also create nostalgia (Lindstrom, 2005). Coca Cola is a prime example of how this works – the modern view in which both American and English cultures portray Santa Claus is often argued to have been reinforced by Coca Cola in the 1930s (Okleshen, Baker, & Mittelstaedt, 2000). Perhaps this is why I feel so connected to the ‘Holidays are Coming’ advert?
Nostalgia and Music
Another reason behind my nostalgic response to the adverts could be the music itself. ‘Holidays are Coming’ was first aired in the early 1990s (Coca Cola, 2010) when I was a child. That means that I have been watching these adverts every Christmas for the last 20 years or more! That’s pretty amazing!
Chou and Lien (2010) found that previously heard songs had a positive ad effect because they evoked positive feelings. Additionally, they found that high relevance lyrics had an enhanced ad effect. Holidays are Coming’ has particularly relevant lyrics with regards to the holiday season. Perhaps then, it is the ever-familiar song, that makes the advert so nostalgic for me?
Nostalgia and Symbolism
The Concise Dictionary of Business Management states that a brand can be defined as a mark or symbol (Statt, 1999). The success of a brand’s definition depends on marketing strategies – consistent advertising creates a nostalgic base (Sharma, 2012). The Coca Cola ‘Holidays are Coming’ adverts have been consistent for over 20 years. In fact, I remember them facing problems when they tried to change their advertising campaign in the early noughties. Many people called in demanding that ‘Holidays are Coming’ be returned as it signified the beginning of Christmas. With such a strong symbol behind their brand during the Christmas season, it is not surprising that we all experience a sense of nostalgia when watching the adverts.
Let’s face it, we need to see those wonderful Coca Cola trucks every year – its become a tradition. Consumers respect the ‘timeless brand’ (Sharma, 2012).
It seems then, that is is a combination of the music, brand tradition and the brand symbol itself that makes the nostalgic advertising by Coca Cola so pronounced at Christmas.