Targeted campaigns can tap into nostalgic consumers

One of my first jobs was buying TV airtime for Mellow Bird's coffee. This was back in the days of only two commercial television channels, pre-emption of airtime - you could get thrown out of your slot up until "close" if someone else wanted to pay more - and 15 separate ITV regions all fighting over share.

Sue Unerman is chief strategy officer at MediaCom
Sue Unerman is chief strategy officer at MediaCom

Mellow Bird's is now being relaunched, targeting students with "mild euphemisms". I hope it will still make us smile - see what you think at

Coffee is a great symbol of how life has changed over the past two decades. Not that long ago, it was the height of chic to invite someone in for an instant coffee and a Coffee-mate. And a coffee in a café cost you no more than 30p.

Then the Starbucks revolution swept over our cities; the so-called "third space" opened up where you could sit on a shabby sofa with your two quid skinny latte. I remember a friend of mine getting a promotional flight for a pound and remarking that it was a strange world where his coffee cost more than his aeroplane ticket.

Today, not only is Mellow Bird's back, but, in what seems a brave move, Starbucks is selling instant coffee: the Via Ready Brew. Surely this undermines the ritual of steaming espresso machines and the language of baristas?

Mellow Bird's is, of course, tapping into a trend for nostalgia foods and drinks, as many heritage brands prosper in the credit crunch. Bird's Custard, Bisto gravy and Fray Bentos pies are all enjoying a revival.

Commentators are pointing to a consumer need for reassurance and security - literally an expansion in the need for comfort foods. Really, nostalgia is a fad.

The great brands from our childhood have lost none of their significance today - I give you Heinz Tomato Ketchup (launched 1876), Philadelphia cream cheese (launched 1880) and Toblerone (launched 1908), among many others.

However, the gloomy economic news creates an environment for brands to target people who are feeling nostalgic. Not many media channels have an obvious outlet for the Opportunity For Nostalgia, so there are scheduling and brand extension opportunities for media owners.

There are plenty of cancelled TV shows from the past few decades that might get a welcome revival at the moment. Consumers may love a new version of Dynasty or Boys from the Blackstuff - both are particularly topical right now.

And in women's magazines, a "then and now" edition of certain titles would be fascinating.  The consumer mood is there, the products seem to be reviving - so how about some targeted media opportunities to exploit the mood? 

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