Nostalgia Will Not Save Fading Tech Giants

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The latest great idea in saving big-old tech companies is to remind people of a better era. Just a day before Microsoft is expected report "gloomy" earnings because of a slow start with Windows 8, it put out a blatant play to our '90s nostalgia with this Internet Explorer ad, which shows all our favorite '90s things, from Pogs to Oregon Trail:

In short, the ad claims: Just like you, Microsoft too came of age in the '90s, love us as much as you love other things from that decade.

The same day, former Dell Dude Ben Curtis suggested a similar tactic for the company rumored to be looking for a buyer. "I think they’re making a huge mistake and simply need to bring back the Dell Dude!" Curtis told Bloomberg's Mark Milian. "That’s it. That’s all they need to do. If they brought me back, their sales, stock and media presence would skyrocket. That is by FAR the smartest move they could make." While Curtis and his "Dude, you're getting a Dell!" catchphrase were ubiquitous from 2000 to 2003, the intervening years have not been kind to either Dell or the Dell Dude. Hailed as "more than just a dude" by USA Today in 2002, Curtis lost his job shortly after his arrest for trying to buy pot in 2003 (that though that didn't get him fired, says Snopes), and turned to theater gigs, like an Off-Broadway play called Joy in 2005, in which he was cast in the role of "happy-go-lucky party guy Christian" in "a comedy about young gays coming out and falling in love in San Francisco," as a profile in The Villager put it. More recently his Former-Dell Dude status has been used to promote appearances at the Atlantic Film Festival. So, yeah, we get why Curtis would like to have his old job back. And perhaps Dell should warm to his pitch: the idea here is that people loved Dell when they loved the Dell dude and irs PC sales spiked during the Dude marketing era.

But, despite our '90s obsession, these tactics won't work because nostalgia is different than reality. As much as people love to reminisce about floppy disks, they still buy iPhones and Macbooks. It will take more than a throwback marketing campaign to change that. 

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