John on our team loves a chat about the ‘good old days’ - be it music, football, PR or the price of Mars bars. He’s also a sucker for ‘re-imagined’ products and media. So much of a sucker, in fact, that he wanted to write a blog post about it. Here it is.
Nostalgia in marketing is not new. Which, I suppose, is ironic in itself. Over the last four or five years though, I’ve noticed a massive jump and subsequent split in nostalgic marketing, which I find really interesting.
Let’s start with the jump.
Over Christmas, I was thinking about things I’ve seen, read, bought or watched in the last 12 months. A trend started to emerge.
Among the usual (likely pointless) purchases of vinyl records I already listen to on Spotify, I realised that I’d bought some re-made 90s Arsenal stuff from adidas, watched Oasis live at Knebworth from 96 (and bought the album, obviously), saw all the Spider-men come together on the big screen (it’s been out for ages now, I’m not spoiling anything) and watched the old GOAT dart players battle it out in a seniors tournament. We also got a 1989 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade machine for the office. And when I say ‘we’…
Usually, I’d look at these things in isolation and think I’m just being a bit rare and buying stuff that nobody else is into.
However, the WhatsApp groups I’m in were buzzing at the release of new versions of old Arsenal kits, people were talking about seniors sports matches or tournaments and the screenings of Knebworth were full to capacity on both nights I watched it. Yes, I went twice in a row. It’s magical, by the way.
So it’s not just me, then…
My theory on all of this is that nostalgia has been driven recently by two things.
Number one - creativity is drying up a bit and it’s often easier to re-hash something that worked before (or as they call it, re-imagine…) than it is to create something new. For example - And Just Like That, the Friends Reunion, the new Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Taylor Swift re-recording her old material…I could go on.
The second point is that people of my generation are probably now finding themselves in top positions at media companies, FMCG brands, music labels and the like.
They’re using these positions of influence to look back at the way we used to live and bringing it up to date and back to life. The times they’re looking back at are the times I’m looking back at, which is probably why it’s on my radar now.
After two years of sitting at home and not being allowed to do anything fun, who can blame brands for rehashing old ideas. Nostalgia is a form of escapism after all - the chance to go back to happier times. God knows we all need more of those.
That’s one side of the nostalgia coin - selling a happy past to people today to make them think of brighter days in their lives. But there’s another side to it, which I think is actually really clever.
Making people pine for an era that happened before they were even born.
The concept of this was new to me, but it shouldn’t have been.
I love music, more than anything probably, and I was reading a book called The Last Party: Studio 54, Disco, and the Culture of the Night by Anthony Haden-Guest.
In that book, the author talks about how the disco culture was so successful in the late 1970s that decades later, it still invokes interest from people who were born many years after it passed. Myself included - I was born three years after Studio 54 closed.
Around the same time I read the book, I started to notice younger and younger fans at Noel Gallagher gigs. Then his brother burst back on to the scene, and not only was the crowd younger still, but it was bathed in a sea of brands and clothing not seen since the last time Oasis ruled the airwaves. Kangol bucket hats, adidas trackies, NASA jackets - you get the picture.
I’m reliably informed that 90s and noughties fashion is very ‘in’ at the moment and that puzzled me. Why do people want to re-live a point in time that came long before they were born?
The answer is likely the same as why I buy new versions of old Arsenal gear.
It’s a feeling.
I’m making a massive assumption here, but I would guess the resurgence of 90s fashion is heavily linked to popular culture - particularly due to shows like Stranger Things (I know it’s the 80s, but go with me) and Netflix adding Friends to its roster.
In today’s uber-connected, always-on world, are younger people pining for the glorious 90s? A time before phones, social media, Brexit, COVID-19 and Ed Sheeran?
Those days can never be recreated, unless you put Tony Blair back in Number 10 and throw your phones in the bin, but fashion and culture CAN offer a window into that world.
I think it’s a form of escapism for the youth of today. A glimpse to a time when life felt (and probably was) simpler. It’s a break from the reality of the world we live in today, in much the same way I feel transported back to the Sportsbowl in Ballymena in the 90s when I play our Turtles arcade machine in work.
One of the most famous sayings in marketing has always been ‘sex sells’ - and while it probably still does - I think people today are more likely hooked on good feelings derived from happier times, be that experienced or perceived.
Anyway, that’s just some random thoughts. Best go and check to see if my Liam Gallagher Knebworth tickets have arrived yet and if my Angel Delight is cold enough to eat…