How Brands like Pizza Hut Harness The Idea of 'Newstalgia' For Timeless Promos

Credit: Pizza Hut

It’s funny how nostalgia works, at least when it comes to marketing. Look at fashion trends, sports uniforms and business logos. Something hits the scene as the hot new thing, then it becomes the norm, then it becomes old. And then, after a little dormancy, it becomes fresh again as a new generation “discovers” and co-opts it. It’s new to them, isn’t it?

Logos that businesses tossed aside in the late ’90s and early 2000s—the simple, flat, classic designs in favor of flashy, 3-D designs of the New Millennium—are coming back. Basically, the logos designed to look futuristic now look antiquated.

Pizza Hut has made what they call “Newstalgia” the cornerstone of their marketing and brand identity right now. In 2019, they went back to their original logo used from 1974 to 1999. But the idea of “Newstalgia” goes just beyond the logo.

The “new” part is integrating modern technology and capabilities with a classic and timeless look. In March, Pizza Hut created an augmented reality PAC-MAN game printed on the pizza boxes. Customers just scan the box and they’re suddenly playing the classic arcade game.

“New” also means keeping up with apparel trends—like the idea of capsule drops—and using social media.

Pizza Hut’s apparel and accessory capsule as part of the “Newstalgia” campaign includes jogger pants, a track jacket and slides all integrating the table cloth design of old Pizza Hut restaurants. It also includes a gold-plated chain, T-shirt, and red plastic cups that customers remember using in restaurants.

“[Customers] tell us how much they loved [the plastic cups] growing up, and wonder if the soda tastes better in them,” Pizza Hut CMO Lindsay Morgan told Adweek.

Within the fast food realm, it’s a lot like what Burger King has done with its own identity and packaging—returning to old logos, but keeping things current by exploring eco-friendly materials and reusable packaging.

People love throwbacks. Why do you think major sports leagues base whole theme nights around them? And it’s sort of just human nature to look at the past through rose-tinted glasses and think about how much better things were when you went to Pizza Hut and got a free pizza because you read a certain amount of books over the summer, and cashed in your quarters for rounds of PAC-MAN.

From a marketing perspective, it’s a simple way to appeal to an audience. But, the trick is to keep them interested and position your client as a viable brand of the future, too. Use the throwback logo, but integrate a QR code for social media tie-in. Drop an apparel capsule that could rival the likes of Supreme, but tell a brand story about using environmentally-friendly materials and processes. Go with a more minimal logo, but for the purpose of integrating it into other media. Include a vinyl record as a promotional product.

Inevitably, after a few years of this retro vibe, the designs of the late ‘90s and early ‘00s will become stylish again. It’s already happening to some extent with the return of fanny packs and bucket hats.

It’s hard to ride that hype wave when it moves so fast. But, if you can do it right, and find that sweet spot between the comfort of the past and the excitement of the future, you can position your clients as brand leaders in their space.

This article originally appeared on BRAND United‘s sister brand Promo Marketing.