There’s something familiar about this summer. You might say it looks... phatter than it has in a while. It feels a little fresher than it has in a few years. Look out home-skillets: the trends of the ‘90s are making a comeback.

THEN AND NOW: Promoting overalls ‘90s style ... and 2013 style (Image courtesy: Buzzfeed)

Think I’m buggin’? Whatever—scope the numbers. Since the beginning of the year, in the U.S., we’ve noticed significant increases in searches for many of the hallmark styles of this dope decade:

We’ve seen similar upticks in the Google Shopping search queries that produce Product Listing Ads. From July ‘12 to July ‘13 in the U.S.:

  • [Overalls] queries increased by more than 180%  
  • [Round Sunglasses] queries increased by more than 100% 
  • [Jelly Sandals] queries increased by more than 180% 
  • [Zubaz Pants] queries increased by more than 150% 

Online Opportunities? No Diggity 
It may seem like the ‘90s weren’t that long ago, but they were a relative Stone Age for marketers compared to today. Marketers still had to plan campaigns long in advance and build them around familiar, static channels: 30-second TV commercials, print ads, and radio spots.

Today, ‘90s-era styles are making a comeback with the help of online marketing tools that enable marketers to be much more nimble and conversational in their execution via display ads, social media, search ads, online videos and more. When a particular item or style gets hot, marketers are pivoting quickly to meet that demand. When shoppers are saying they want it that way, those fast-moving companies can be there with a relevant message and offering.

From overalls to high waisted jeans to Furbys, here are a few examples of the marketers and agencies that used the web to reach people looking to turn back the clock to the ‘90s:

  • Jumping on an uptick in interest since the beginning of the year, Minneapolis-based Comet Clothing Company, maker of Zubaz, adjusted its search advertising campaigns across screens to reach customers looking to, as the company says, "embrace the awesomeness of Zubaz". So far in 2013, paid search campaigns have helped drive 20% of the company’s total revenue. 

    As the company’s President, Dan Stock, explains, Zubaz’s signature styles have remained constant, but the company’s advertising has changed with the times: "When we first launched Zubaz, we used the marketing tools available to us to get the word out. Today, search ads, and the web more broadly, have enabled us to jump on trends quickly and adjust our advertising to connect with people that want to relive some classic 90s styles, or experience them for the first time." 
THEN AND NOW: Zubaz print campaign, c. 1991, Zubaz mobile search ads, c. 2013
  • American Apparel has seen spikes in interest for a variety of '90s-era styles, particularly high-waisted jeans and shorts, since the beginning of the year. As a result, they've launched display advertising campaigns for these items and other retro looks, like color-block clothing, jelly sandals and more. Since they began using it, Remarketing on the Google Display Network has produced double-digit returns on American Apparel's ad spend. 
THEN AND NOW: American Apparel print ad c. 1999, American Apparel GDN Display and mobile search ads, c. 2013

 THEN AND NOW: Marc Jacobs print ad, feat. photo of Kim Gordon by Juergen Teller, c.1998 (left) Google+ Hangout viewing party during Marc Jacobs’ NYC Fashion week show, c. 2013 (right)
  • Noticing an uptick in interest for 90s era styles this past spring, Piston used inventory-aware campaigns from DoubleClick Search to ensure that their search ads showcasing their client's most popular products from the ‘90s never went out of style. Piston was able to automatically create ad groups, ads, and keywords based on their existing product feeds. And the results were pretty rad, too: in just a few weeks, their retail client saw 51% higher ROAS, 26% higher CTR, and a 50% higher conversion rate. 
  • U.K.-based retailer ASOS is helping its customers relive old-school styles with new-school online strategies as well. Jumping on the recent spike in ‘90s-style interest, ASOS has used Product Listing Ads to reach customers searching for overalls, acid wash and other items. Now, more than 40% of ASOS’ paid search traffic is from PLAs. 
  • Hasbro’s relaunch of Furby last holiday season focused on digital, with YouTube playing a key role. They developed an interactive Furby gameshow on their YouTube channel and Furby ended up as one of the top 10 searched toys of the most recent holiday season. Look out for an even bigger FurbyBOOM campaign coming later this year. 
 THEN AND NOW: Hasbro newspaper ad for original Furby launch, c. 1998, YouTube video still from Furby re-launch, c. 2012

Shoppers and Retailers: keep an eye out for these styles, especially as we inch closer to the holiday season.


Posted by April Anderson, Retail Industry Director