Although the ‘90s weren’t that long ago, Millennials are nostalgic for the past. They wish for the simpler times when life wasn’t so stressful and the biggest decision was which Beanie Baby to buy. Now, they face high unemployment rates and uncertainty about their future. Understandably, they seek familiarity and reminders of a childlike state to provide them with comfort amidst confusion. What started off as retro revival as an escape from reality has quickly become a full-blown phenomenon. Millennials have a soft spot for their childhood and as a result, the return of ‘90s culture is being seen across all industries.
Everyday, it seems like there’s “breaking news” of the ‘90s popping up again. Lately, much of the buzz has been about “Girl Meets World,” the sequel to the hit show “Boy Meets World”, which will feature many of the original stars. And of course there’s the highly anticipated Package Tour featuring New Kids On The Block, 98 Degrees, and Boyz II Men. But that’s certainly not all. No Doubt recently reunited, and Destiny’s Child performed together at the Super Bowl. Matchbox 20 is back, Kriss Kross is returning, and Backstreet’s back…alright! New boy band and girl bands are also taking over, and you can’t forget the Spice Girls reunion tour a few years ago, followed up by their performance at the London Olympics. Millennials are emotionally invested in the return of the ‘90s and feel a closeness to the culture in which they grew up. They’re eager to attend these events, share ‘90s news with friends, and they look forward to the future while paying tribute to the past.
Nickelodeon jumped on this trend a while back with “The ‘90s Are All That”, a late-night block of TV shows from this decade. Even Lisa Frank is splashing color into today’s culture with an app and a limited edition line of merchandise at Urban Outfitters. Kids today may not have Trapper Keepers with dancing dolphins, but Millennials appreciate seeing these throwbacks everywhere they turn. Even the publishing industry has embraced the ‘90s and is releasing “The Baby-Sitters Club” as ebooks. The New Museum in New York City recently unveiled an exhibit celebrating New York in 1993, Twitter accounts such as @90sgirlproblem and @YourAwayMessage still remain popular for those who want a trip down memory lane, and Netflix has made it possible to rewatch many old shows from the beginning. Millennials are even fueling the ‘90s fever by sharing Throwback Thursday pictures on social media, reading articles on BuzzFeed Rewind, and passing them on to friends.
So what does all this mean for brands? Companies can tap into this shared appreciation for the ‘90s while telling the story of their brand. Miscrosoft recently did this with its “Child of the 90s” ad, which allows viewers to joyfully remember the past and see how far they and Internet Explorer have come. Old Navy, a brand that was at the top of its game in the ‘90s, took a similar approach. The retailer released several commercials with the cast of “Beverly Hills 90210,” Backstreet Boys, and Jordan Knight of New Kids On The Block, who all are associated with this time too. This approach can only be done if it makes sense, but it’s a way to tell the story of your brand. Millennials want to know a company’s history as a way to develop trust. By tapping into this trend and celebrating the life of ’90s kids, companies convey that they care about this generation and they recognize them as key consumers.