Nostalgia Part One: Why now is the time for creatives to get nostalgic

Nostalgia Part One: Why now is the time for creatives to get nostalgic

We’re living in uncertain times. The only thing we can say with any certainty in the age of uncertainty is that the future is unpredictable and unquantifiable. Aren’t you glad I didn’t say unprecedented?

This can make long-term creative planning a big challenge. Ideas now have a shelf-life shorter than a pint of milk and the ones that do get signed off need contingency plans thicker than a Dickens novel. Future-proofing ideas is becoming almost impossible.

What can we rely on in this day and age to help form meaningful connections with the audiences we’re attempting to reach?

One starting point is to look at human behaviour. 

In times of uncertainty and stress, people often revert back to what they know, to what brings them comfort, or provides escapism – to the perceived safety of the past.

This is where nostalgia comes in as a powerful emotional lever for brands looking to connect with their audiences. 

Some creatives may see nostalgia as creatively lazy – like a Northern stand-up comedian repeatedly asking the audience: “do you remember (insert random object)?”. But a better way to think about it is as a shortcut to building affinity with your audience.

Nostalgia doesn’t have to be about glorifying the past and faithfully re-creating the ‘good old days’, it can also be a jumping-off point for new innovations and a means to drive culture, music and fashion and thinking forwards. Just think about the way that jazz inspired hip-hop or the logo-heavy streetwear of the 90s inspired the athleisurewear produced by Supreme today. 

Think of the way that Old Spice rebuilt their brand by redefining themselves as a nostalgic brand for the modern man or the way that Netflix conjured completely fictionalized nostalgic worlds for hit programmes like Sex Education and Stranger Things – nostalgia can be the setting for your story without being the story itself.

If used the right way nostalgia can dominate the news agenda.

To some, the summer of 2017 will be remembered as a miserable time dominated by Brexit and Trump’s first visit to London. To the internet though – it’s remembered because of the giant half-naked statue of Jeff Goldblum that popped up by Tower Bridge put there by NOW TV to celebrate Jurassic Park’s 25th anniversary.

Part of the problem with nostalgia is that it was used badly for so long.

Brands used nostalgia in campaigns with a message no more complex than ‘weren’t the old days better?’. Growing up I associated nostalgia with shops like Past Times and Werther’s Original adverts that were literally sepia-tinged. 

A better way to see nostalgia is as a creative muse that if used in the right way has the power to get millions of people right in the feels. 

Nike in particular have been great at doing this in recent times combining footage of legacy athletes with modern-day stars to give its messaging more gravitas and grounding – arguably even its Kaepernick campaign in 2018 was nostalgic – after all it took Nike 2 years after his initial protests to release it!

Coming up...

Nostalgia Part Two: The history, relevance and power of nostalgia

More from Will Holloway about where nostalgia comes from, why nostalgia is such a powerful creative tool in the current climate and how nostalgia gives creatives permission to not only imagine, but re-imagine.

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