Bring Buyers Home with Nostalgia Marketing

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I briefly touched on nostalgia marketing as one of the big reasons Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte (and loads of other pumpkin-themed products) have become all the rage of late (and oh yippie — it’s that time of year again). Researchers believe “it’s more about the pumpkin feeling than the pumpkin flavor or nutrition,” according to one NPR article. “It’s a vegetable that represents this idyllic farm life and the best sort of moral virtue. And Americans have become attached to that,” says Cindy Ott, professor of American Studies at St. Louis University and author of the recent book, Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon. (YES, there’s an entire book about the history of the pumpkin, and YES, it’s fascinating, and I highly recommend it!)

What can nostalgia do for your marketing, though, you might ask?

My answer: few things are more nostalgic than the idea (or the ideal) of home, and you can easily build that into your marketing with a little planning and creativity.

The very definition of nostalgia is “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past.” [1] The older we get (and the crazier the world around us becomes), the more we look back at what we perceive as simpler times: our childhoods. And in the current political and economic climate in which we live, the desire to see the world more through rose-colored glasses becomes stronger, so we are not only nostalgic for the simpler times of the past but we also long for a more idyllic present.

Evoking an emotional response from consumers with your marketing, tugging at their heartstrings to trigger that wistfulness for the past or create the vision of an idealized present, can be just the poignant touch your marketing needs to bring it to the next level and make that elusive connection with today’s hyper-connected consumer. Constant exposure via social media and technology can create a culture of cynicism, but “nostalgic thinking can make [consumers] feel more optimistic, and therefore more likely to buy,” according to an article in Psychology Today. [2]

Let’s look at a few ways to employ nostalgia marketing in your real estate business.


The five senses and nostalgia go hand-in-hand. Social interactions, sensory inputs, and tangible objects commonly inspire nostalgia and using the five senses to elicit memories and feelings of nostalgia can be a brilliant marketing move. For example, teaching your clients to make their homes smell inviting for showings and open houses is just one way to incorporate the senses into your marketing. Also, consider using staging techniques, such as using textiles that are pleasing to the eye and the touch, since as pillows and throw blankets of different textures, and playing soft music during showings and open houses. Be conscious of appealing to the senses in your marketing efforts to capitalize on this powerful concept.


Storytelling is an unbelievably successful form of marketing. When your marketing tells a story — the story of your business, the story of your team, the story of your care values, the story of your listing even — you awaken in people an emotional response that they may not get otherwise. And that response can lead to a connection with you, your team, and your listing.

Get your clients involved in telling the story of their homes by using their memories and feelings about their homes as part of your marketing. Create a simple questionnaire that encourages them to tell their story of their home, and then use their responses to create nostalgia-style marketing that will not only set their home apart from other listings but also set you apart in your market. For an example of my storytelling questionnaire, click here.

Another way to incorporate storytelling is by taking the idea of a listing virtual tour to another level. Letting your listing video tell the story of the house and letting the house be one of the main characters in the storyline is a powerful strategy. Below are a couple of examples:

Evoke the wistful and whimsical feelings of childhood in your listing marketing, as Flagstaff, Arizona REALTOR® Paula Monthofer did with this listing video. The viewer is a fly-on-the-wall to a 5-year-old’s tea party and inadvertently tours the house as a result of the search for one very important missing guest:

Or you can romanticize everyday life, as I did in this listing video for my real estate team, the Buy Sell Live Atlanta team in Atlanta, Georgia. The house is the main character in the story, and the viewer experiences the tour as its inhabitants go about their everyday activities in an idealized day in the life:

And in one last example, two sweet adoptable pups take the viewer on a tour of a New Orleans home listed by REALTOR® Leslie Heindel. Partnering with a local animal shelter resulted in this adorable listing tour, awareness for the animal rescue…and the ultimate adoption of these darling doggies.


Finally, take “old-school” real estate marketing techniques and give them a new twist to add nostalgia to your marketing. For example, don’t send out generic recipe postcards as marketing; however, if you love to cook, send out your grandmother’s chocolate chip cookie recipe or your favorite father’s “super-secret” BBQ Sauce (unless, of course, his BBQ sauce recipe is a secret — then maybe don’t send it out!). Or instead of sending out plain old boring Just Listed postcards, send out a story postcard, telling the story of the house, describing the seller’s favorite room in the home, or telling the story of their favorite memory there (with their permission, of course).

Back to that Pumpkin Spice Latte, I mentioned at the beginning of this post. There’s a lot we can learn from Starbucks and the PSL — about marketing and, more importantly, using nostalgia. Bottom line: be creative, stand out, and don’t be afraid to try out a new idea to bring some emotion into your marketing and to help you connect with others.