Is nostalgia covering up for a lack of new product development?

Following the successful relaunch of Cadbury's Wispa, companies have been rushing to revive old brands such as Birds Eye's Arctic Roll and Mellow Bird's coffee. But where does this leave NPD?


Simon Michaelides, Marketing director, Tropicana Pure Premium

Nostalgia initiatives are a smart response to 'moment in time' consumer needs, often requiring as many R&D resources as classic NPD.
The responsibility to make products healthier, combined with shifting regulations and product costs, means the resurrection of old favourites is often possible only with considerable change. It is also a challenge to make this change without consumers noticing any difference.
At a brand level, nostalgia comes
into its own in uncertain times, where familiarity, reassurance, and positive associations are key needs. Exploiting existing, proven assets, is also a far more attractive option than taking the risk of investing in NPD from scratch.
However, nostalgic products should not be relied on to deliver long-term growth. The appeal can be short-lived, because the market circumstances that give rise to them are often transient.
Nostalgia should be used together with traditional NPD, as part of the mix. Used smartly it can have a halo effect on portfolio sales by re-engaging consumers with the mother brand.


Jon Davies, managing director, Holmes & Marchant

The past 50 years have been recorded like no other age, and, thanks to the internet, we can now look up almost anything we want from this time.
As the 60s, 70s and 80s are being mined for inspiration for fashion, TV and music, it's no surprise that brand owners see this as a chance to relaunch some fondly remembered products.
In fact, bringing back these brands makes a great deal of sense. Businesses will often still have the manufacturing capability, as well as a lot of marketing knowledge. Consumers respond well, too - bringing back a retro brand appeals to the leg-warmer wearing trend-setters, as well as those old enough to remember these fashion disasters the first time around.
This doesn't mean that companies have stopped investing in NPD. Resurrecting an old brand is an opportunistic decision rather than a long-term business strategy, and brand owners recognise this. Most companies will also have very few, if any, great old brands just waiting in the wings.


Mark Jaffe, marketing director, Westmill Foods

The recent successful resurgence of Wispa, an iconic brand from the 80s, has paved the way for the return of brand classics such as the Arctic Roll and Mellow Bird's coffee.
These brands may have long faded from view, yet they were big in their day and now offer lapsed consumers some nostalgic comfort and warmth to protect against the chill of an economic downturn. At the same time, many younger consumers are seeing these products for the first time.
Brand renovation offers a quick and cost-effective approach to attracting new business revenues, as the modest development costs can be limited to refreshing packaging design and an updated ingredients declaration. There may even be an opportunity to make some improvements; a good example is the proud claim from Arctic Roll that the Original Raspberry and new Triple Choc variants contain no artificial colours, flavourings or preservatives.
 Moreover, as these brands have not absorbed significant development-time and cost, they can be priced attractively to meet the need for value.


Iain Ellwood, head of consulting, Interbrand

Current anxiety about the future may have people heading for 'comfort blanket' products and brands such as Kenco's Mellow Bird's and Lancashire hotpot. But let's not confuse this with
a lack of industry innovation.
Taking the coffee market, there has been more innovation in the past few years than at any time since 1938 when NestlŽ first introduced freeze-dried coffee to the masses. Entirely new coffee products like Tassimo (another Kenco brand) and the high-street baristas of Caffe Nero et al have expanded and enriched our coffee-drinking choices, not narrowed them.

It's common sense that consumers see nostalgia as a route to the comfort and familiarity they now crave. So it's not surprising that interest in these nostalgic brands has been reignited. However, they still need to offer a differentiated proposition in order to be successful.


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