With hectic work (and social) lives, unrelenting responsibilities and mounting pressures, reflecting on fond memories can bring light relief, fuzzy feelings and even a smile to someone's face. Nostalgia is defined as 'a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past'. The feeling of longing and affection leaves us open to brand messaging; when we feel or care for something, we’re much more likely to act, buy or engage.
Nostalgia marketing isn't a new concept but it is reportedly resonating strongly with millennials in particular. Tell a captivating anecdote from years gone by with a millennial, and you’re likely to connect with them on an emotional level; which is music to the ears of brand marketers.
Many people may look at (us) millennials with our social media addictions and our digitally-maintained dating lives and think we don't care about anything because #ugh #whatever. It turns out, it's quite the opposite. The effect of living in an age of impersonal digital media, and growing up in a period of economic turmoil, compels us to remember simpler times. It is an incredibly easy way for companies to leverage positive feelings from young consumers and create a meaningful connection with them. And many companies are already doing this, especially tech companies looking for new ways to tap into their target audience. TimeHop and Facebook memories serve us up daily flashbacks of past social media posts, while last week Spotify launched its Your Time Capsule feature.
Of course, as I sit here in my faded Levi's jeans and Adidas Stan Smiths, I like to think I'm not so easily influenced.
And that’s because nostalgia sells, says Tim Wildschut, a researcher at the University of Southampton who studies nostalgia and its functions. “People are realising that consumers enjoy the experience of nostalgia and they’re capitalising on that.” “Nostalgia is a sentimental affection for experiences in the past,” he says. Although it’s tinged with longing, most people tend to perceive nostalgia as a positive experience. Reliving a memory – happy or sad – can have important psychological benefits for us too. “It enables someone to simulate the presence of others,” Wildschut says. “Simulation can make you feel more connected or more loved, even in times when you’re lonely or don’t have your friends in that immediate area.” And there’s growing evidence that just reminiscing about other people can stimulate the positive physical reactions that we get from real social experiences.