The Throwback Sensation: Millennials and Nostalgia

Published by | Olivia Roth

  • Consumer Life

  • Culture

Anxiety about the future has millennials longing for the good ol’ days… including times they’ve never lived through.

The beginning of the 2000s was a turbulent time to come of age—leaving millennials fearful about the future, including entering the workforce in the midst of the recession with limited job opportunities. Various psychological studies suggest nostalgia provides comfort in times of instability. It can enhance mood, increase self-esteem and feeling of social connectedness, reduce stress and promote positive feelings about the future, which might help explain millennials’ fixation on the past. Nostalgia may also increase likeliness of making a purchase. A recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that participants were willing to spend more money after recalling a nostalgic event.

Aside from the resurgence of all things ‘90s, millennials, more than any other generation, are exploring culture from the decades before them. The Internet and social media have enabled countless ways to revisit the past—allowing millennials to escape the stresses of their current reality. The stream of old shows, movies, photos and music via the Internet acts as a window to previous decades. Hashtags like “Throwback Thursday,” “Transformation Tuesday” and “Flashback Friday” encourage posting old photos that are the perfect combination of embarrassing and cute. Apps such as Timehop (see below) resurface social media posts, pictures and statuses from years past.



Brands have the opportunity to leverage the emotional effects nostalgia has on millennial consumers by participating in or enabling this trend. This could be revisiting old packaging, or posting #TBT pictures.