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Nostalgia in Professional Services Marketing

Updated: Nov 9, 2019

Should Your Firm Take a Step Back in 2020 to Help it Move Forward?


Nostalgia is recognized as a valuable marketing tool in influencing buyer decisions because of the emotional connection it grants the customer, client or consumer. Research shows that nostalgia gives our personal histories a sense of continuity and significance.  In a highly competitive professional services marketplace, reminding clients about iconic pasts, landmark historical moments and sentimental feelings about the ‘the good old days’ can inspire loyalty, admiration and connection.


How Does Nostalgia Fit with Professional Services Marketing? Isn’t it Tricky?

Indeed, nostalgia marketing is about experience and the way it evokes positive recollections of the past that in part may be aligned with a particular brand.  In any marketing and business development strategy, it is important to draw the connection of how that past, nostalgic moment helps to inform the future for both the firm and the client. 


When I meet with professional services employees, I often tell the story of how my mother was entrenched in shaping some of the first nostalgic moments in advertising just as Mad Men’s Don Draper states in the “Carousel” episode, “It's called a carousel.  It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone…it takes us to a place where we ache to go again.” I explain that nostalgia in professional services marketing is about connecting people to messages that are both personal and relevant.  For a firm and all of its employees, this means being authentic and aligning the past with a firm’s future goals.


There is one caveat as nostalgia can conjure mixed emotions for people who may have been part of marginalized communities during the period that is being set forth.


There are Two Main Ways Nostalgia Marketing Can be Utilized as a Differentiator for Professional Services Firms as we Approach 2020.


1. Internally Within the Organization - To Provide Existential Meaning and Bolster Employee Engagement


Professional services providers sell both the human relationship/capital and products and services that provide value today and tomorrow.  But those relationships rely on a commitment to and caring for the people within an organization and the greater community.  Nostalgia marketing helps to serve as a way to revisit important memories. 


Examples in a law firm may include a first major pro bono win, a commitment to

community service or an appellate victory that helps to advance a major social issue.

Each of these moments must be authentic. Concurrently, the firm must be able to show how it is going to continue its commitment in 2020 to its employees, its clients and the greater community. Why? Because engaged employees help the firms where they work to grow.  A brand is strengthened by the emotional connection to it and an open dialogue with employees about the value their contribution has made to being able to look back on things and play them forward today.  The trust built upon some of these nostalgic moments or in essence – emotional experiences employees have within their firms are the basis for why an employee wants to associate with the firm in 2020.


Nostalgia helps to serve as a basis for creativity in the workplace by instilling a sense of shared memories that can lead to employees advocates which truly strengthens a firm’s ultimate success.


2. Externally-Facing – To Show the Market that your Firm is Looking Back

and Paying it Forward


For many professional services firms, nostalgia may provide a content-rich platform of milestones and firsts of firsts that evoke similar emotions from clients. Using a law firm as an example, perhaps you were the law firm to first introduce a legal concept, technology tool or make great strides in helping to create some of the first movements in history. Maybe it’s a tie-in to how you were the first firm to defend a certain technological patent on a product that elicits memories of an era of yesterday.


But, at the same time that you wax poetic about a past era, remember that while your clients may acknowledge your shared pasts, they are looking at how you are making a difference in the world today on major issues from sustainability to diversity and inclusion. From the marketing stance, this means you need to create more than thought-provoking content. Your firm can help to create a movement that inspires the overall industry whether legal industry or the respective industries of your clients.


Above all, make sure you are aware of and respond to your clients’ needs. That is how you provide the best value of all.


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