August 2, 2019

“Memories light the corners of my mind. Misty watercolor memories, of the way we were.” ~ Marvin Hamlisch

I recently watched a movie called Midnight in Paris. It’s about a wistful author writing a book about a man who owns a nostalgia store. Not an antique store, mind you. Nostalgia evokes warm remembrance. Antique just means old. Recently we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Whether you were not yet born or remember it clearly – we watched back with awe and pride at this tremendous achievement. And we felt good.

Apollo 11 Moon Landing

Considering that nostalgia evokes a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former time and place, it’s no wonder that clever marketers have been using the strategy of “nostalgia marketing” for years. Even social media has gotten in on the act with the famous “throwback Thursday” or “flashback Friday”. And how many times have we started a sentence with “back in the day?”

Nostalgia in marketing, then, means using themes or products from the past to create a positive emotional longing in customers. This technique is often overlooked in the trade show industry but can be used very effectively. Make no mistake, trade shows are big business for the very reason that people thrive on face-to-face interaction and connectedness that can’t be achieved through any other marketing manner. Exhibitors are always looking for ways to make a splash on the trade show floor.  Encouraging attendees to remember a bygone time that elicits optimism and a warm, fuzzy feeling might just be the ticket.

1. Tie nostalgia to your brand.

Showcase your company’s history by displaying vintage versions of your products in your booth or create vibrant graphics from your older product images. Ford Motor Company, for example, creates many nostalgia campaigns where attendees can see old cars or trucks in person. At the trade shows we produce and manage for Ford Commercial Vehicles, visitors express deeply personal feelings and gratifying stories and memories about their Ford trucks going way back. That’s nostalgia.

2. Celebrate a milestone year of being in business.

Is it your 25th year in business? Or 50th? A fun idea would be to have your event staff dress in the attire of day. Create banners and graphics celebrating your achievement. Do you have images from the way your storefront used to look, or past founders and employees? These could be used in social media campaigns, newsletters, landing pages for the event, in-booth videos and a myriad of other ways.

The trade show itself may be celebrating decades of memories. The Mid-America Trucking Show, for instance, dedicates an entire website page to displaying photos through its 48 years of existence, and touted these memories in the exhibit hall this year during the show. Even if your company hasn’t been around that long, you could tie your booth event marketing to that nostalgic theme.

3. Develop a game.

Technology reigns supreme, right? Not always. Depending on your event’s demographics, even something like the nostalgia-inducing click of a prize wheel can warm the hearts of attendees and allow them to have a little fun with the anticipation of winning a prize. Take it from us, people will line up in droves for a chance to win. You could also create a game-show-like digital game where attendees are asked questions about your company’s past, like “how long have we been in business?”, or “what did this used to do?” or “what did we originally call this product?” Then give out prizes branded with the old logo or a nostalgic miniature of your old product.

Prize wheel in the Ford booth at Mid-America Trucking Show

Old-school prize wheel.

Product Demonstrations - Maximizing the Message

New-school digital game.

These are a few ideas to incorporate nostalgia marketing into your trade show exhibit. With a little brainstorming you could develop many more. Be sure to saturate your social media accounts with your plans in order drive people to your booth, create a contest or showcase the changes your business has made through the years.


It’s proven that emotions are important in marketing. Tapping into affectionate memories with nostalgia marketing is a powerful and fun way to forge an emotional connection with your target audience on the trade show floor. Taking a walk down memory lane allows us to escape the pressures of a digital world, reminds us where we came from and is effective with all age groups. After all, everything old is new again, right? And who doesn’t love to remember the way we were?

Related: Why Nostalgia Marketing Works So Well With Millennials 

C.C. Carr, Onsite Trade Show Director

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