The power of dreaming backwards
Celebrating our 60th anniversary led us to search for the best from the past and bring that into our future. And while we toyed with inevitable bouts of nostalgia, it got us wondering: what is that bitter-sweet emotion good for? It turns out—a lot!
Nostalgia sounds Greek (and it is, kinda) but was cleverly coined in the 17th century by a Swiss medical student Johannes Hofer in his Ph.D. He combined the words Nostos (homecoming) and Algos (pain or ache) to describe Swiss mercenaries’ mental and physical anxieties as they were fighting away from home. In his eyes, nostalgia is a medical condition caused by the desire to return home or to the past.
Over time, however, the interpretations around nostalgia have changed a lot. In her recent book, The Future of Nostalgia, the modern philosopher Svetlana Boym argues that nostalgia is much more about longing for a home that no longer exists, or perhaps never existed at all.
Nah— it’s a happy thing!
“What’s with all that doom and gloom of worlds past”, must have been the thought of professor Constantine ‘feel good’ Sedikides. Sedikides argues that, yes, nostalgia is triggered by ‘negative’ moods such as sadness and loneliness. But that nostalgia itself is a positive and social emotion. It’s healthy and vital, offering positive narratives in which we are the protagonists, boosting self-esteem and social connectedness, which helps relieve us of that existential threat. In other words—we should all be nostalgic a.s.a.p. if we wish to overcome the dread of current times!
What’s in it for us?
Along with Sedikides, many psychologists suggest that looking back through the rose-tinted lens of nostalgia helps us deal with current uncertain times. And times they are a’messy! Nostalgia offers comfort, helps us root in our identity, and deal with today. But there is more. In this age of impersonal digital media, building social connection through nostalgia is a sure-fire way for businesses to reach out to consumers in an authentic way. It shows that you’re human and helps transport your customers to a more certain time by referring back to their childhood memories. Nike used a fun way of doing that. Nostalgic marketing is very effective and manages to touch upon an emotion—which is always essential for good marketing.
Back to the future
But be careful not to get stuck in the past. As a brand, it’s important to be relevant and aware of what’s happening today. Find that sweet spot of being just nostalgic enough to create that fuzzy feeling and hook that feeling to whatever is relevant to your customers today. If you’re looking for inspiration, haute couture is always ahead of the trend—even when nostalgic.