Mad Men S1e13 The Wheel

My first job, I was in-house at a fur company, with this old-pro copywriter, a Greek named Teddy.

Teddy told me the most important idea in advertising is ‘new’. It creates an itch. You simply put your product in there as a kind of calamine lotion.

But he also talked about a deeper bond with the product: nostalgia.

It’s delicate, but potent.

Teddy told me that in Greek, “nostalgia” literally means “the pain from an old wound”.

It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone.

It goes backwards, forwards, takes us to a place where we ache to go again. 

"It's like a carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels: round and around, and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved."

Okay, I confess...

I’ve never worked with an old Greek called Teddy.

The above aren’t actually my words.

And I’ve definitely never sold any fur coats.

The above are in fact the words of Don Draper. Or, more accurately, those of Matthew Weiner, the writer of Mad Men, who penned them for John Hamm, who played Don Draper.

Set in the ‘50s, the show mostly follows the life of Don: his marriage, his affairs, his career as a high-flying copywriter in the burgeoning ad industry.

In the scene I’ve pinched the monologue from, Don has devised a pitch to help Kodak sell their new photograph projector. You can check out the full scene below:

Who’s chopping onions?

Now the show may be fictional, but the above pitch couldn’t be closer to the truth.

In fact, the same sentiment in the monologue could’ve been used in a show set in the period of Antiquity about the master salespeople on the market stalls of Rome, or in the future, focused on the salespeople of tomorrow's world shifting whatever products we haven’t dreamt up yet.

And that brings me nicely to my point.

Everyone is obsessed with asking questions like “What will the future look like?”, “What will change?” and to borrow a Keane-ism from our website, “How will the humans of the future eat, stay, work, shop and play?”

Especially right now with topics like AI being so prevalent, these questions are more commonplace than ever.

But rather than future gazing - as fun as that can be - I think it’s more powerful to ask: “What will remain the same?”

And one of the things we know for certain is that humans will always want what they can’t have.

We will always want a slice of the future, but even more powerful than that is the fact that humans will always want a slice of that place they can no longer go: the past.

VR Headset Guy

I sense a great irony on the horizon in that people will likely just use the technology of the future to go back to places in the past.

So how can you tap into this in your experience strategy?

As with every project we work on, it all starts with a true understanding of your audience and what ‘nostalgic’ means to them.

Combine that with something relevant to your brand and you can create an experience that is immensely powerful.

A great place to start would be the five senses.

We’ve all been immediately transported back to grandparent’s houses by a certain fabric, back to a first date by a song, back to the beach with our parents by the smell of suncream.

Understand what’s most potent emotionally to your audience and then create - as Don describes it - a time machine they can use to go back to that place and your experience will be irresistible.

It could be as simple as a few items on your menu, a list of specials or even an entire room, concept or space dedicated to a different place or time.


Imagine if a nostalgic brand like Pizza Hut opened their old restaurant concepts from the ‘90s for a limited time, with the old menu, old music, even staff with old-school haircuts.

They could take your phones off you at the door, taking photos with disposable film cameras instead, which you receive in the post afterwards, extending the experience beyond the restaurant and into the home.

The place would be packed out with Millennials, and probably even Gen Zers who want to experience a kind of second-hand nostalgia via the shows and films they've seen.

Pizza Hut Old School


Whether your brand is as nostalgic and era-defining as Pizza Hut or not, the point still remains that tapping into that element of your audience’s mind - "the place they long to go" - and creating something that takes them there will give them exactly what we will all always truly, deeply, long for:

To travel round and around, and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved.

Check out our podcast 'The Power of Nostalgia in Marketing' on Apple or Spotify

Click to find out how we can help you to craft a world-class Experience Strategy.
Background 03