Old School Is Still Cool In The HVAC Industry

Eric Thomas

June 23, 2021

You know the old saying, “the more things change, the more they stay they same?” I find this to be particularly true in the HVAC industry. Not so much in regards to the technology and equipment quality, but in regards to marketing & advertising.

In this post, I’m going to dissect some different types of HVAC ads from different eras, and show you how & why this industry is remaining nostalgic when it comes to advertising.

Old School Vs. New School HVAC Ads

Alright, let’s check out some old school & new school HVAC ads. Once you see these, you’ll notice a similar underlying trend. I’m going to show you product ads and lifestyle ads first.

HVAC Lifestyle Advertisements

First, we have the miserable family who clearly doesn’t have working AC. This illustrates the fact that your family will be miserable and hot without a brand new HVAC system.

Look, I’m not saying that the ad isn’t right. Because after all, not having working AC is pretty freaking miserable – especially in the dog days of summer. But to be fair, that dude is straight up wearing long pants and a long sleeve shirt, and his wife (mom? sister? idk..) is wearing a long dress. I get it… “back in the day” this is how folks dressed.

But look at the kid… he’s appropriately dressed in shorts & a t-shirt, and to be honest, he doesn’t seem to be that miserable.

Next, we are going to show another dapper family, which appears to have just got a brand new window unit installed.

“You see Timmy, mom and I are in such a good mood because we just bought this new AC system! Disregard the fact that I’m smoking a pipe in your face! You’ll grow into it!”

Oh look – even the dog appears to be happy!

Sarcastic banter aside, you can see that the message here is very clear. If your house is hot, you and your family will be miserable. If you get a new AC system, you’ll be much happier.

HVAC Product Ads

I’m only going to show one example here, because this really stuck with me when I first saw it.

On the left (from 1953) we see a hand adjusting a thermostat. Because thermostats were a huge breakthrough when they were first introduced to the marketplace. And to be honest, thermostats didn’t really progress a ton until the early 2000’s. But what you’ll see in the picture on the right (from 2020) is the exact same image, just showing the nest’s fancy smart thermostat.

Pretty fascinating, huh?

Retro Design In Modern Ads & Creative

My last point to show you in this post is how modern advertisers are utilizing nostalgia to brand HVAC companies. Heck, if you check out the HVACR Business Magazine “Tops In Trucks Fleet Design Contest” you’ll quickly see what I’m talking about. It’s almost becoming overdone to be honest. But guess what? It works. People want “old fashioned service” and what better way to portray this than by branding your company with a nostalgic look?

To make a long story short, the more things change – the more they stay the same. And I’m here for it. I love studying the golden age of advertising, and I think nostalgic design in the trades in incredibly effective.


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