The Future of Nostalgia: Great Brands Make Good Old Days
If you have ever pined for the good old days, you know the power of nostalgia. Never mind how good or bad those days really were–some realities often disappear into a rose-colored rearview mirror, leaving only stuff that makes us yearn for a time machine.
The lure of referencing a bygone time as though it was a sepia-toned utopia is nearly irresistible. It’s getting stronger as the world gets faster and techy-er. Used authentically, nostalgia connects us personally, culturally, and ultimately at an anthropological, possibly even biological, level.
Nostalgia takes at least three forms, each with its own appeal and resonance:
1. Personal—the wistful recollection of your own youth and the passage of time, reminiscing about your childhood, the college years, or your family milestones. These personal experiences are deeply ingrained in our identities, and tapping into them can evoke powerful emotions and connections.
2. Cultural—Remembering a shared era, with all its attendant zeitgeist and popular cultural symbols, like the mid-20th century or the 60s. Eras are brands to be leveraged in and of themselves. By aligning a brand message or experience with a culturally significant period, marketers bond with consumers who connect with that time and its perceived values.
3. Anthropological—It speaks to a universal longing for a time before the complexities of modern life—a deep connection to our shared humanity. Nostalgia can transport us to a mythical place where life was simpler, where basic human needs and values were at the forefront. This longing for a state of nature resonates with individuals across various backgrounds and can be a potent tool in brand storytelling and experience creation.
Nostalgia can be a powerful shaper of brand messaging, storytelling, and experience in almost any industry:
In hospitality, uniforms may evoke the past, grand architectural details may harken back to a bygone era. The aim is to transport guests to a time when attention to detail and personalized service were the norm, turning back the clock on the experience.
In retail or CPG, nostalgia may suggest a connection to timeless lore or mythical places, a trip back to the corner store that knew your name, personalized service reminiscent of a simpler time, or just a higher shared purpose and a sense of long-lost community.
In Travel, where exploration and novelty are paramount, many individuals seek an escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life by disconnecting and returning to nature. Brands that tap into this desire and offer experiences that evoke a sense of simplicity and connection with the natural world can resonate deeply with their audience.
Even in B2B, personal nostalgia leads brands to a startup mindset, with its associations of innovation, agility, and close-knit teams, is often revered and steeped in nostalgia.
Brands that authentically harness their most relevant form of nostalgia can create compelling narratives and experiences that resonate on a deep, emotional level. By evoking personal memories, connecting with cultural references, and appealing to our shared human drivers, brands shape messages and experiences that transport us to a place where the past and present converge.
In other words, brands can connect people to the good old days, even if those days are just now getting started.