Americans are More “Nostalgic”

John Hope-Johnstone

A couple of years ago, I had the honor of giving a talk about Social Media and Tourism to a class at Oregon State University. From that talk I made good friends with two of the students who both joined our firm as social media interns and one went on to become a full-time and excellent Social Media and PR Manager in the company.

What amazed me about this bright young woman was that her tastes were not of her own generation, nor even the generation behind, but they were for the 1950s!

As a CMO  I am intrigued about the power of nostalgia and I don’t think we are taping into it strongly enough. (With some notable exceptions like Chevy’s ad campaign for the Super Bowl. Take a look at this ad “Chevy Runs Deep”  .

As a country the U.S. in the Naughties (2000s) is a highly nostalgic place. In some respect we could replace “nostalgia” with the word “longing”. Many have a longing to return to a time when the weather was more stable, when the economy was more stable, when the dollar was strong and we actually exported something.

Any marketer who is involved in engaging people through social media today can do well to remember that from ages 28 through into the mid 60s our population needs comforting and they often get that comfort through nostalgia.

The word nostalgia derives from the Greek “nostos” (return) and “algos” (pain), suggesting suffering due to a desire to return to a place of origin.

The Future Laboratory co-founder Martin Raymond states that; “for many, the recession has been one stress too many. Hence, we are witnessing the rise of Revivalist thinking, a nostalgic yearning for all things past and comforting. Folk themes, folklore, folk fashions and the re-appearance of furniture and products with a quasi-nostalgic theme and a rose-tinted nostalgic viewpoint are all becoming more prominent.”

It’s not only the millions of Baby Boomers rushing into their mid sixties who are nostalgic. A recent study shows that many 28 to 40-year-old Gen Xers strongly reminisce about past times. If your last purchase was Star Trek, a Wispa, shoulder pads or school friend, then don’t fear, you are entirely typical of someone who lived through the Noughties,” says a report from financial services provider Standard Life, which concludes that more than any other decade, the 2000s were very retro.

Damian Barr, who wrote Get It Together (2004) about struggling 20-somethings, fears the generation that reached adulthood in the 1990s and 2000s could find themselves handicapped by excessive nostalgia. “We are less prepared for our difficult present by having had a very easy time of it when we were very young,” he says. “We grew up in a boom – we are living in a bust.” (Stephen Robb BBC News).

Tapping into nostalgia is tricky. You must know the generational cohort you are trying to reach very well. You must listen to their conversations and understand them and your message must be subtle and only hint of nostalgia not slap them in the face with it.

Thanks for reading. Please include a comment about your thoughts on nostalgia. Also, subscribe to the blog for more Social Media and marketing thoughts.

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