Global Trends in Marketing and Advertising: The Enduring Appeal of Nostalgia

When the here and now is grim, people look to the past for comfort

Global Trends in Marketing and Advertising: The Enduring Appeal of Nostalgia

When the here and now is grim, people look to the past for comfort

When the here and now is unrelentingly grim, people are faced with two means of escape: look back to when times were happier, and simpler; or try to look ahead to when times will get better. Right now, the second of these routes is made all but impossible by the highly uncertain pathway to the future, which is beset by profound and potentially existential economic, environmental and geopolitical challenges. No wonder, then, that people all over the world, and of all ages, are finding solace in the past. While this is a constant feature of being human, it increases at times of uncertainty, like now.

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The upheavals in the world economy, the threats of Covid-19 and climate change, and the perceived international threats posed by conflicts between nations all create a very challenging present day. For some, there are also other perceptions that life is not what it used to be: the more globalized the world we live in, the more technology intrudes in our lives, changing the way children experience childhood. Some people may want to turn the clock back, but others view these changes as signs of developmental progress.

There’s also a vast difference across regions between those who feel nostalgic and those who don’t. But it is clearly not just about geography. Nostalgic feelings seem higher in some Asian markets (India and Hong Kong, for example) but are very low in others (such as South Korea, China, Vietnam and Japan).

A nostalgic mindset can take many forms. For some, it can simply mean revisiting one’s own memories; for others, the TV shows and music of yesteryear serve as reminders of happier times.

Nostalgia can also take on more significant forms: sometimes the contrast between the current situation in a country with what the collective memory suggests it was like in the past can be the basis for political change.

Corporations, particularly those with a long history, can leverage nostalgia through feel-good messaging, but also by resurrecting product formations/recipes from the past.

Feelings of nostalgia are highest in Asia and Africa

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Our report tells a story from the topline data. For technical details, please see the full methodology. For a deeper dive into demographic differences, regional analysis and sector- or market-specific insights please contact us for a custom analysis of this incredibly rich data source.