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The power of Retro-New: Happy Days are here again!

Grab your boombox…or your Sony WalkMan!

Cassettes are back!

Have you heard the news? Many of today’s top recording artists are issuing their new tunes on the venerable cassette tape. Over the last decade, you probably heard how many  music aficionados have been buying up vinyl LPs, but right now the big thing is cassette tapes, as Jason Evangelho describes in his Forbes article, Forget Vinyl, Let’s Talk About The Cassette Comeback.

I’m not pointing this out to make you start digging through the bottom of your closet to find your old Walkman, but to point out trend that could present a marketing opportunity for many business owners: Retro-New.

We have three big buying groups active in the marketplace right now: Millennials, GenXers, and Baby Boomers. I’ve noticed that the Millennials have a fondness for things that were iconic to the two older generations. These items are new to Millennials, but nostalgic to older buyers, therefore my term Retro-New…or maybe I should say “newstalgic.”

In most ways, this isn’t unanticipated; things come around in cycles. However, what is new is that people are living longer and are more active consumers later in their lives. Gone are the days when an individual would retire and then go live a quiet life. Today’s “retirees” are different. They are less likely to join AARP. Heck, they’re less likely to retire!

For marketers, this means that they have the potential to tap two markets when something comes back into style that was earlier popular with older generations:

  • Sell it as retro-new to Millennials, and
  • Sell it as nostalgia to Baby Boomers, and increasingly to GenXers.

Going back to the example of boomboxes and cassette tapes, if you sell music or electronics, along with new boomboxes and the new music being published on cassette, you could find some of the classic albums Millennials and GenXers listened to over-and-over-again in their cars.

Cassette tapes even rank their own sub reddit – r/cassetteculture – where a member recently posted about how he just opened a record store in Boston and it already is featuring more than 1,000 cassettes. I’ve included the photo he uploaded with his reddit post. Note the titles!

The ability to understand and appreciate yesterday is one of the best ways to predict what will happen tomorrow. In fashion and people’s tastes, what is old is new again. Let’s take the boombox as a jumping off point.

The boombox hit U.S. markets in the mid 1970s. (The Walkman came out at about the same time.) If you do a Google search for “What was popular in 1975?” you’ll get a lot of good information. I just discovered that the movie Jaws was released in 1975; is it a coincidence that another shark movie, 47 Meters Down, was just released?

And if an Internet search doesn’t give you some ideas of products or services you might feature today that would be new and cool to Millennials and nostalgic to Baby Boomers or GenXers, then head to a good library and thumb through some popular magazines for ideas.

The comforting lesson here is that we don’t all have to be like Steve Jobs and create whole new categories of products and services; we can be successful putting new twists on old ideas or by simply introducing old products to new consumers.

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