Ahhhh… the ’90s. An era before social media and smartphones when “Tickle Me Elmo” caused a nationwide frenzy and the Spice Girls reigned supreme. It was a simpler time for many, and in today’s hectic world, harkening back to the beloved decade is a welcome form of escape. Savvy brands have been reviving the era with a variety of nostalgic activations and stunts that celebrate ’90s pop culture in all its forms. Here, we give you the 411 on a handful of dope activations that caught our eye.
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To promote a new line of shoes reminiscent of ’90s-era kicks, New Balance and partner Footlocker produced a “Rewind to the 90s” pop-up event featuring all the trappings of a ’90s kid’s childhood. For starters, tickets into the event came in the form of slap bracelets, and it only got better from there. Among the touchpoints: a Koosh ball pit; the iconic orange couch from SNICK (Nickelodeon’s popular Saturday programming block); a Nerf wall; the opportunity for attendees to create full-sized holograms of themselves sporting ’90s attire; a VHS installation prime for photo ops; a mock Blockbuster store; and a replica teen’s room filled with props from the era, like Hi-C, vintage movie posters and an old desktop computer. Adding to the nostalgic experience were hired actors who helped drive the narrative. Survey says? Da bomb.
Remember when the Internet was referred to as the “information superhighway?” The World Wide Web has come a long way since its inception, and it’s the concept behind National Geographic’s six-part series “Valley of the Boom.” Set in the ’90s, the program details Silicon Valley’s tech boom. To bring the content to life, the brand teamed up with WeWork to create ’90s-style Internet cafés featuring games and décor from the era, along with practical career development opportunities.
Detailed experience design elements were at the core of the activations, including authentic 1990s desktop computer stations offering classic computer games like “Oregon Trail,” hacky sacks, a floppy disk installation, retro arcade games, faux WIRED magazines from the era and old-school board games like “Guess Who.” And our favorite component: social media vending machines planted in each venue that dispensed 1990s candy, toys and trading cards in response to tweets and Instagram posts containing the hashtag #ValleyOfTheBoom.
As the fast food wars continue, there’s no shortage of clever marketing tactics being leveraged by the key players, and that includes KFC. The irreverent brand has pulled off a wide array of stunts over the last few years and its latest ploy is one every ’90s fan can appreciate. To promote its $3 Famous Bowls, KFC set out to “celebrate an abundance of food in a bowl with an abundance of style” by bringing back the infamous ’90s bowl cut—a, shall we say, less than flattering hairstyle that pervaded the decade.
The fast food chain offered five different versions of the hairstyle for free for consumers in Brooklyn, NY, for one day only. Each cut came with a brand-related name, like “The Original Recipe” and “The Spork & Bowl.” Those brave enough to take the plunge (as if!) received a gift card for a free Famous Bowl. And for consumers outside the Brooklyn area, KFC created a digital look book that could be shown to their stylist, and encouraged participants to share the resulting style on Twitter with #KFCFamousBowlCuts. We’ll just stick with the chicken.
Photo courtesy: KFC
Automaker Renault UK’s Clio model was born in the ’90s, but is still popular today. So to celebrate the vehicle’s technological evolution over the last three decades, the brand produced a launch event with a split theme: ’90s nostalgia and the modern era. The nostalgia theme came to life with touchpoints reminiscent of a ’90s kid’s birthday party. Attendees could snack on Nerdz, rock candy and Slushies; get tied up in a game of Twister; rock out to Britney Spears and the Spice Girls; play classic video games; relax in vintage rattan chairs and take Polaroid photos. The name of the pop-up event? Play, Pause, Rewind. Nice.