The era of nostalgia

Like any digitally-obsessed person, I start every day by connecting on Facebook. And every day I can’t restrain myself from looking at what type of grammar mistake or fashion faux-pas I was making, this time any number of years ago with the ‘on this day’ feature.

Hoping I wasn’t the only one fascinated by that and digging into my old pictures at least once a month, I wanted to see how nostalgic Brits feel and if it is something only synonymous with my age group.

A study conducted by Standard Life shows that 28-40 year olds don’t plan for the future because they prefer to reminisce about past times. It seems that nostalgia is a common feeling among all age groups and both genders. We all like to look back and remember the past, perhaps sometimes to distract us from the less convenient truths in the present.

When we asked our YourVoice Community respondents, the most common triggers of nostalgia given were music, TV programmes, smells, food, photos and toys.

When I sense something from my past, it could be simple like the smell of a newly polished hall reminding me of school. It may be seeing a toy or a sweet from my childhood or a photograph of my children as toddlers.

Female, 45-54

Media- linked memories are the most often quoted; with pop culture including music, TV shows and films:

Music is a big aspect of my nostalgia. I listen to songs that remind me of attending gigs with my partner and also songs that remind me of being a teenager with much less worries and stresses.

Female, 18-34

The growth in digital channels help this, as content from all areas, periods and timeframes is now only one click away.

There is no need to go somewhere and dig through your old Disney VHS to go back to your childhood films or look for that Cindy Lauper vinyl, as almost everything is now easily accessible on various libraries on the internet.

All of these remind our respondents of mum’s cooking, specific moments in their past, holidays with their family and the absence of any constraints they were experiencing during their teenage years and childhood.

Certain music can make me feel nostalgic if it reminds me of something from a long time ago – theme music from TV shows I used to watch when I was younger with family members who are no longer here.

Female 18-34

When asked if they feel nostalgic about different things than they used to, it seems that the childhood and teenagehood come out on top, despite their age.

The things that make me feel nostalgic are generally music I hear on the radio or a TV programme. The last one was a documentary on Evel Knievel. I was at Wembley Stadium in 1975 as a very small child to see him jump thirteen buses. He was my hero!!!

Male, 45-54

Although we all feel nostalgic about something, it seems that older people feel much more nostalgic than they used to, linked to the fact that they have more things to feel nostalgic about and the fact that they feel that more of their life is behind them than ahead.

I think that now I have more things to be nostalgic about and the list will be getting longer as I get older. Life also keeps on changing at a crazy pace so that gives me more things to feel misty-eyed about.

Female, 35-45

One common source of nostalgia, which is strong for older age groups, is the memory of relatives that passed away and all the moments linked to them.

Looking through family photo albums makes me very nostalgic and I think that as I get older I get even more nostalgic. I don’t remember feeling like this 10 or 20 years ago. Seeing all the people who are no longer with us

Female, 55+

For parents of older children or adults, nostalgia of their children being young seems prominent.

Now as I said my grandchildren remind me of my own childhood and how my own children acted

Male 55+

So what?

Brands, in their desire to pull emotional levers, have understood the opportunity well. There are always more ‘Ramones’ or ‘Beatles’ t-shirts in high street shops, Stella and Virgin Atlantic partnered with secret cinemas creating experiences around films from the 80’s or the 90’s and cereal restaurants have opened to feed customers their favourite childhood cereals all day long.

Even communications are using this common feeling to create a strong emotional connection with audiences such as Tesco with its ‘Nothing feels better than Christmas’ that shows the story of a family over six decades or Cadbury’s ‘First love, first taste’ that shows the tales of two generations that both started with chocolate. Let’s not forget Hovis celebrating its anniversary with a campaign showing key moments over the last 100 years.

Studies by Mr Routledge, along with colleagues at the University of Southampton, have found that remembering past times improves mood, increases self-esteem, strengthens social bonds and imbues life with meaning – so for brands, even more for those with a long heritage, it is worth understanding which role your products played in your consumer’s childhood or teenage years to tie them into these positive memories and create stronger life-long relationships with consumers.


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