The Power of Nostalgia
Milan Kundera in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, writes: “The brain appears to possess a special area which we might call poetic memory and which records everything that charms or touches us, that makes our lives beautiful.”
Last weekend, my wife and I revisited the past. We sat together and listened to some of our favorite numbers, from Nat king Cole to Sinatra. We quoted some of the prose we grew up on, proud of our literary memories of ‘Percy Byshe Shelly’ and ‘Lord Byron’. Before we knew it, we were humming a medley of ad jingles we had grown up on. Whether it was Nirma or Bajaj, these jingles brought back a flood of memories and immersed us into a sea of nostalgia.
There is a sense of longing and wistfulness attached to nostalgia – the sudden rush of warm memories. Like the first time you fall in love, one’s first kiss, the birth of a child – the list of happy memories is endless. That’s because joy and happiness are hardwired into us. I call it, to play on a phrase by spiritual thinker Eckhart Tolle, the ‘Power of Then’. ‘Then’ is a time when the air was cleaner, the music better, the food tastier — as opposed to ‘Now’, with its fast-paced living and little room for frivolity.
Nostalgia has only one call to action: ‘Experience’ your memories. We all open up to nostalgia, whether it’s natural or manufactured by brands, because it allows us to reminisce all that we loved and have left behind. And that presents brands with a huge opportunity. Content that invokes nostalgia breaks through this clutter by pulling up the consumers’ fondest memories and asking them to simply ‘Experience’ them. And consumers respond at a primal level, with feverish loyalty.
Memorable brand journeys, captained by curiosity
Marketing campaigns that have piggybacked the emotions bandwagon have experienced success. Studies have shown that emotive sentiment can lead to an increased willingness to pay for desired objects. For example, it is the 50-year-old brand campaign that turned Amul from just another Gujarati dairy company to an enduring butter brand. We can’t help but smile at the timeless, wide-eyed girl who is ever so relevant for every generation since its launch.
But when I think of my daughter’s generation, I think there’s a unique challenge dealing with #screenagers as a consumer category. ‘Memorable’ may be an oxymoron, when your consumers are hurtling through the day with five screens and an eight-second attention span. Content is manufactured, consumed, and forgotten at blinding speeds, almost against the fabric of nostalgia.
So how can we make things memorable for millennials? The most memorable experience for a generation that thrives on instant gratification is driven by curiosity. If brands create snackable content, they’ll want the next bite. Create a trail of snackable content, and they’ll remember you as a source of exciting experiences that make them wonder. Take them on a journey and let them figure out the real ‘you’. Be warned though; creating nostalgic experiences with a prescription-based mandate may not work. The target market is one that is capricious – but obvious, your experiences need to be personalised and delivered in the last millisecond.
Dovetail Data and Content
The emotive part of an experience is creativity. And this creativity, when dovetailed with data, will deliver great brand experiences for any screen or device. Technology can help organizations build compelling brand narratives from their data and differentiate with their storytelling. The pursuit of legacy is going to be the most exciting pilgrimage any brand can embark upon. As is building nostalgia for future generations.
Adobe, with its unparalleled leadership in Content and Data, continues to serve its revered pilgrims!