The last year has been a strange one. We’ve been unable to create new memories that are memorable for the right reasons – no holidays, no meetings with friends or families, no parties. What will stick in our mind for years to come when we look back at 2020 and 2021 is lockdown.
So, it should come as no surprise that nostalgia is hot right now. We’re seeing nostalgia emerge more and more, from clothing and branding to TV and music.
The science of nostalgia
So, why is nostalgia everywhere? In simple terms, in order to make this year bearable, we’re going back to better and happier times.
According to psychological research, positive memories activate the reward pathway in the brain, which is essentially a release of chemicals that make us feel good. This makes us want to carry the act out again that made us feel good – in this case, remembering happy memories. In a nutshell, that is what nostalgia is and why fond experiences you’ve had make you feel good, especially in a disappointing period like today’s pandemic. There’s no better way to escape boring times than to indulge in escapism and nostalgia. Research by GlobalWebIndex found feelings of nostalgia aren’t restricted to a certain age group but are a common feeling for everyone.
We have incredible access to things from the past, be it music, photos, videos, articles, and everything in between. It’s easy to understand why nostalgia is becoming a key trend in today’s world. So much so that we’re expecting to see this nostalgic trend continue. Research has also suggested that nostalgia can contribute to psychological resilience and optimism, which are what we need to help us through the boredom of lockdown.
Burger King’s rebrand
Marketing has gotten involved in the nostalgia trend. Successful marketing is often about selling customers a feeling, and nostalgia is the ideal chance to do so. Brands rely on creating an emotional connection with customers, making them feel familiar and comfortable with it so they’re more likely to return. After all, retaining customers is incredibly important.
Companies have been returning to their roots, offering a nostalgic experience by rebranding their logos and packaging similar to a familiar sight.
Burger King’s first rebrand in 20 years is a nostalgic one, recreating their retro logo from the 1970s. The logo diverts away from ‘artificial and ‘synthetic’ and attempts to capitalise on better times. Designer Lisa Smith said: “We explored a lot of different design territories, but kept coming back to the brand’s original iconic logo from 1969 and 1994 when Burger King looked at its best.
“We were inspired by how it has grown to have such an iconic place in culture – from Back to the Future, Gremlins through to more recently Stranger Things and BK’s Warhol campaign.”
The world of fashion
Fashion is like a revolving door: out with the old and in with the new, then in with the old again. Admittedly, there are some fashion trends that have rightly remained in the past, while some become attractive again for the modern-day shopper.
Fashion has always had a nostalgic element to it, with each year’s fashion taking some inspiration from the year before. However, certain notable items have a nostalgic edge to them. Smaller shaped shoes have been ditched for huge, clunky, 90s-style trainers, with both high street stores and designer labels getting involved. Boot-cut jeans, bum bags, and three-quarter fleeces have all certainly become fashion statements of the 2020s as well as mule sandals, which have existed in the fashion world since around the 1950s.
These nostalgic items of clothing remind us of fun and memorable decades – the 90s were an iconic part of fashion history, continuing to exist in today’s trends.
Technology and media
We have daily reminders of nostalgia on social media – Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram all have elements of nostalgia on their platforms. All of these apps offer memories that show you what you posted or saved that day years back, allowing you to look through pictures, videos, and posts that you might’ve otherwise forgotten about.
Spotify Wrapped is an innovative feature that reveals your streaming trends over the past year, showing you the top 50 songs that you listened to, the genre, artist, podcasts, as well as new genres or artists you discovered. Music can be effective in transporting us right back to a powerful memory, which might explain why you’ve been listening to a lot of songs you used to love. In fact, research has shown that music makes us feel incredibly nostalgic by associating it with certain experiences.
Audio cassettes, which aren’t known for fantastic audio quality, have also experienced a revival. Cassette sales increased two-fold in the first half of 2020, reaching a record high in 15 years. However, it is a young audience driving these sales, with pop acts like Lady Gaga being the most popular. The same can be seen for vinyl, almost reaching a 30-year high, being their highest point since the Britpop boom. It is predicted that nostalgia is driving this trend as streaming services like Spotify provide unlimited access to music of all kind.
Almost four in 10 said they were prepared to pay more for a content streaming service that provided access to older content that was unavailable elsewhere.
In difficult times, nostalgia can be the most comforting feeling, throwing us back to better and happier times. While we’re escaping to the past, we can’t help but wonder, what will the next big trend be? Something old, or something new?
Oba, K., Noriuchi, M., Atomi, T., Moriguchi, Y. and Kikuchi, Y., 2016. Memory and reward systems coproduce ‘nostalgic’ experiences in the brain. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 11(7), pp.1069-1077