Nostalgia is a strange thing. Yesterday we heralded the return of a meat pie sold by the "Georgie Pie" chain until McDonald's bought the chain and closed it down near the end of the millennium. It is a fair bet the only thing most people remember about Georgie Pie is its name. As pies go it was nothing remarkable.
Yet a name alone is nostalgic, as McDonald's marketing crew well knew when they announced the return of the Steak Mince 'N' Cheese. Despite a distinctly unfamiliar price of $4.50, it was greeted as "New Zealand's favourite pie" and "a long lost friend".
Somebody in marketing has earned a bonus even if nostalgia is not enough to sell anything for very long. Remember the Choco-ade biscuit? Probably not. Griffins relaunched it last year as "an 80s favourite" (of a woman on Facebook) and it received fond recognition on TV3's Campbell Live. Nostalgia can be viral while it lasts.
Nostalgia works because nothing needs to be exceptional to appeal to it. An ordinary house, a work-a-day office, an undistinguished building or landscape, all can mean something special if they have been part of our life we have left behind. To return to it brings that sweet-sad mixture of familiarity and separation by the passage of time.
Reunions are always pleasant if they do not last too long. The past is not a place to live in.
If marketers see new life in a revived product, they need to have improved it. Nostalgia is never enough.