Is retro marketing the way to sell?

mtdew drewmclellan
The retro Mountain Dew can

It makes some sense.  How do you appeal the the 75+ million baby boomers?  You help them take a trip down memory lane by giving your product a retro make-over.

I saw this Mountain Dew can on the shelf a month ago and immediately noticed how blatant they were in their efforts.  They’re calling it a throwback and making no apologies.

An added bonus — teens think retro is cool too.  With one packaging shift, this trend has captured the two buying groups with the most disposable income.  Teens and boomers.  Pretty smart.

And it’s not just a gimmick.  It’s a smart sales strategy. Pepsico is reporting that after a few months, the retro can have added one share point to sales, which equates to about $220 million in annual sales.  (They’ve also released a retro Pepsi can but my Coke preference precludes me from putting the other cola’s picture on my blog!)

It’s not just food products who are jumping on this retro bandwagon.  Nike launched the Air Jordan retro sneakers in February, Disney put huge dollars behind their Tron sequel and look at how many VW beetles you see on the road.

Last month, we had a lively conversation about what sells better — pointing to the past or the future.  How do you think the idea of retro fits into that mixture?

Enhanced by Zemanta

29 comments on “Is retro marketing the way to sell?

  1. Drew says:

    I feel like the retro push lately might just be another way for companies to try something new (ironic – using old to be new). Not really sure its necessarily a long-term strategy (I don’t Pepsi isn’t going to keep the retro packaging long term, even if its selling well), just another way to shake consumers out of their habits and zombie state while in stores. Just yesterday, while in the grocery store, I noticed that Cheerios has a throwback box now too. It caught my attention, so it works to an extent.

    1. Drew — but does it make us buy? That’s the real question.


  2. Steve Jones says:

    It isn’t just marketing to 75+ million baby boomers. There is an entire generation of younger consumers who are eating up the retro movement. They are downloading Atari and Nintendo 64 games on their iPhones. They are collecting albums. They are wearing leg warmers. It seems everything eventually comes back in style!

    1. Steve —

      Agreed, in fact in some ways it’s the younger consumers who are really the biggest fans.

      I’d vote the leg warmers go back in a drawer but maybe that’s just me!


  3. Personally? I’m not a fan. It costs the company a lot of money (things that cost a company money cost ME money), it undermines brand recognition, and for me – personally – it makes it harder for me to locate the item I want. I pass on this retro packaging, every time. Just a few days ago I was getting a Diet Dew for my hubby at Target, I saw these cans and they bothered me but I didn’t think about it for very long – thanks for giving me a chance to put some words around my disapproval!


    1. Elizabeth,

      Would the cans cause you to buy or choose not to buy the soft drink of your choosing? Or is it just annoying?


  4. It might sound like a contradiction in terms, but retro is really on-trend right now.

    We’re having a rough time of it economically, culturally, socially – so it makes sense that we want to retreat to happier times. And marketing companies love to give us what we want, don’t they?


    1. Andy,

      I do think a lot of it has to do with the harkening back to a simpler day sort of mood that the world seems to be in these days.

      But I also think the throwback to our own youth is pretty appealing for those baby boomers too.

      So as the economy gets stronger — do you think the appeal of these items will decline?


  5. Naturally, the sales figures might tell us more, but another way of looking at it is that retro Mountain Dew can may actaully seem new to many younger people’s eyes.

    Also, because this retro logo might seem dated rather than merely retro, some younger buyers may see it as a brand that’s not trying too hard. (The apparent appeal of Pabst Blue Ribbon, many think.) Kids who are repelled by the slickness of so many brands–including soft drinks–might think this feels more honest and authentic.

    The new desing naturally has some retro appeal to those who identify it as retro–much like the old Nike Cortez has an appeal, to those who remember it. But I didn’t recognize this as the old Mountain Dew–a drink I consumed far too much of in 1969 and 1970.

    So perhaps it’s more complex than old versus new, modern versus retro, and looking to the future versus yearning for the past.

    You certainly sparked a lively discussion. . .

    1. Harry —

      I wondered if anyone would catch the “limited time only” disclaimer. Although I think the Pepsi folks put that on there in case it didn’t sell.

      You raise an interesting point — does this feel less spun and more genuine? It’s certainly more hokey and less slick.

      I’ll go with that on the Dew can. The Pabst thing I can’t explain at all. It was not good beer back when we were teens!


  6. The Dews’ new can pulls off another marketing trick that most people don’t notice immediately.

    Right at the top, the classic phrase: Limited Time Only.

    (Perhaps they decided added an exclamation point would sound too addy.)

    So if you want to have this, you better Act Now!

  7. I’m not likely to buy something just because they change the look of the label. Start selling soft drinks in those tall glass bottles I remember from the 70s – preferably from an old vending machine with a bottle opener on it. That would get my attention.

  8. I should also note, that I wouldn’t buy this product even though it is made the old fashioned way (with sugar). It simply isn’t enough. I want the whole package. In order to be truly retro (for me) it must not just taste the same or look the same, it must BE the same. I want true authenticity – not a contrived version of it.

    1. Theresa,

      For you it isn’t about the packaging — it’s about the product itself. Do you notice or find yourself being swayed by packaging of any kind?

      We’re fascinating creatures, we humans… aren’t we?


  9. Ria Keinert says:

    People, look beyond the can. Look at the ingredients! I don’t drink pop, but the appeal of this is a phenomenon that makes me very happy- people are reluctant to ingest HFCS, high fructose corn syrup. The stuff makes you hungry, raises your blood sugar sky-high, and is metabolized in the liver rather than in the cells, so it doesn’t do anything for your energy level. Goodbye HFCS and good riddance.

    1. Ria,

      What’s interesting about your point is that nowhere on the can (unless you are looking for it) does it mention that they’ve removed the high fructose corn syrup.

      Do you think that’s because it wasn’t their primary motive or because they wanted us to discover that fact on our own?


  10. R.H. says:

    The retro craze, to me, is like comfort “food” or “products” to those who grew up and remembered what those brands looked like. Recently, I saw that Doritos and Cheetos brought back their retro labels.

    For the younger generation (I’m stuck in the middle as an Gen Xer), they see it as a cool way to see how their parents were young consumers back then.

    1. RH,

      Interesting idea. So as a Gen Xer are these products proof that your parents were once cooler than they are now?

      I have a 17 year old daughter… and she and her friends listen to a lot of music from my high school and college days. But it doesn’t occur to them that they’re listening to their parents music. In fact, I think if they did — it would get less cool.


  11. Maybe what we are getting to us the analysis of retro/nostalgia simply doesn’t reflect the nuance. We are as different as our fingerprints, which means that everything, including nostalgia/retro, appeals to us in many different ways,depending on who we are.

    To some, for example, retro reminds them too painfully of that time. For others, it evokes a time they prefer to the time that they are living in. And I am sure there are so many other considerations that to offer a simple explanation means you must ignore just how complex we are.

    My thought: Reject simple explanatiors, as deeply as we all wish for them.

    1. Harry,

      Which of course is part of the whole “authentic” movement. It’s consumers saying — stop twisting yourself into a pretzel to be who you think I want you to be and just be yourself so I can actually decide if I want t buy you.

      As you noted in your latest book, Unthinking, as consumers — we don’t even consciously know why we act a certain way ourselves. That’s a complicated creature!


  12. shanemiller says:

    I think this strategy is gonna work for teens mostly.But the facts you have put in are actually very true.Thanks for sharing this with us!!

    1. Shane,

      Someone’s buying all those retro cans — much to Pepsi’s delight. It will be interesting to see if this is a fad or a whole new trend.


  13. For a second there, I thought the can said “Mountain Drew”. Now that’s clever marketing.

    This is a trend I have noticed for a long time. I first noticed it on e-Bay, where the bidding for old toys from the boomer generation would hit ridiculous levels. Then 70’s music came back. And now this.

    Here is what I find curious. The baby boomer generation used to make a lot of noise about not raising their kids the way that their parents raised them. They were going to do it differently.

    Now it seems, all they want is retro toys, retro music and retro packaging, and they get excited when their children embrace them.

    I guess their childhoods weren’t all that bad after all.

    1. Patrick,

      Now that’s subliminal advertising at its best!

      You’re right — I can remember my mom buying my baby daughter all the old toys I had as a kid. And I have to admit, it was fun to see her playing with the same things. It’s another way of being connected, I suppose.

      A shared experience has value to us even if it’s done with decades in between the experiences!


  14. Mike says:

    Packaging only goes so far. If the product isnt special in some way…the fancy retro packaging isnt going to drive sales. Basically, this is the easy way out. Instead of working hard to make the product amazing. They just changed the package. Yawwwwn! Come one, you can do better!

    1. Mike,

      So do you attribute the bump in sales to the fact that they’ve switched to sugar, as Ria suggested?


    2. Yes, but is there much special about any soda?

      It’s a low involvement purchase for most people, other than the passionate fans who drink Coke or Pepsi, but not both.

      I think it’s a low involvement purchase of Mountain Dew too, new or old. The old wasn’t bad, to some of our tastes, Offering it to us again might move some cans of pop,

  15. Ria Keinert says:

    People, read the label. They took out the High Fructose Corn Syrup. That is a good thing. Not a yawwwwn, way more than packaging. It’s about public pressure to eat less/no HFCS.

  16. The retro advertising and marketing campaigns are a great way to remind lost customers about a particular brand they were loyal to at one time. For others who are still customers, it reinforces their passion for the brand.

    With respect to the Mountain Dew throwback can, it implies moonshine and a drink with a kick because of the real sugar. The name has instant recognition as opposed to the hundreds of energy drinks littering the shelves of your local Big Lots store once the product fails in supermarkets or convenience stores.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *