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alling all ’90s babies! A Twitter trend has me unlocking memories I didn’t even know I had. The formula is simple: It includes a top text caption along the lines of “you just had to be there” or “y’all really wasn’t there” and includes images of early 2000s TV shows, vintage computer games, the early iPhone aesthetic, or even old menu items. 


This trend, like many static meme trends, is quickly finding its way onto Instagram and only growing from there. 


So why do we care?

It’s all about nostalgia, an emotion today’s Gen Zer’s are all about. Many Zers are tapping back into Y2K fashion trends like butterfly clips and juicy track suits while others are revisiting the musical genius that was the Brittany, Gwen, Destiny’s Child, and BackStreet Boys era.  


While many of us can agree that growing up was the worst trade deal in the history of trade deals (maybe the worst deal ever), the Coronavirus pandemic has placed many zillennials back in their childhood bedrooms in their parent’s homes. This reversion to childhood selves may have been isolating for many, it also has served to foster a sense of community among members of the group who can make light of their situation and share their childhood memories online. 


The trend also allows for a sense of exclusivity. “You weren’t there” reminds me of the 2010’s popular meme phrase “if she doesn’t get X, she’s too young for you bro.” 


These phrases suggest that while older Gen-Zers may technically be in the same generation as the crop-top dancing TikTokers, we also had our own youth culture that y’all honestly just missed out on. 


Siri, make a note that these are the “good old days.” 


How can marketers capitalize on this trend?

This meme trend follows nostalgia-based activations and campaigns happening in the corporate world. For example, Burger King recently rebranded its logos and aesthetic to a simpler, more retro style reminiscent of its roots. Additionally, Lisa Frank partnered with Morphe to create a makeup pallet that has my inner tween SCREAMING. I’ve even seen artists, such a Doja Cat, borrow aesthetics dating back to the 1970s in their music videos. 


As this meme so perfectly states: I’m “getting tired of y’all all having the same childhood experiences as me.” A recent “you just had to be there’ tweet even hints at the ways brands like McDonald’s can use similar text to bring back old menu items and engage with previous customers, all without having to expand their budget. 


I’d love to see more companies capitalizing on nostalgic trends such as this one. Tapping into popular trends while also speaking directly to the community that creates them can turn customers into brand loyalists. When you show you understand your audience and are tapped into their life experiences, they will keep coming back, time and time again. 

Sometimes companies hop on meme trends too late and it becomes cringey, but nostalgia never dies.

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