Retro Packaging Sells Nostalgia for a Simpler Time

Weren't detergent bottles so much more awesome in the '70s?

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Everything old is new again. The Wall Street Journal has a report this morning about the hot new trend in consumer product design: consciously retro packaging that aims to remind you of a simpler time. Tide, Cheerios, Doritos, and Pepsi are among the products that have recently hit shelves with kicky vintage designs recycled from the '60s, '70s, and '80s.

Manufacturers "say they are hoping to benefit from consumers' generally sunny impression of the past," reports the Journal's Sarah Nassauer. Take Pepsi, for example. In 2009, the soft drink company introduced Pepsi Throwback, which employed can designs from the '70s and '80s, and touted its use of real sugar instead of corn syrup. The Throwback line got a lot of buzz in the social-media world. According to Amy Wirtanen, a senior marketing director at PepsiCo, this is because young people would look at a vintage Pepsi can and think, "It is authentic to history and the past and has an almost timeless element."

At the risk of wedging in a Mad Men reference where it's unneeded, this seems to us like the kind of pointed emotional appeal Don Draper would feel comfortable making. But timelessness only goes so far. Retro packages of Tide will only be available through June 10, according to another Journal story: Procter & Gamble is using an artificial-scarcity strategy, hoping that limiting the offer will make people more likely to rush out and buy the product.

On the other hand, vintage Doritos Taco were only supposed to have a limited run, and Frito-Lay has made them a permanent part of the lineup. The same thing happened to Pepsi Throwback. So maybe these retro designs really are timeless, like love, and life, and the stars that hang o'er us all.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.