Nostalgia is like the dal chawal you devour as soon as you return from a month-long vacation abroad– it warms the cockles of your heart and soothes the soul. You can only have so many #smoothiebowls and #avocadotoasts before you start missing the masala dosas and gajar ka halwas, not just because they’re your favourite, but because they’re familiar. And familiarity often translates to comfort. One bite, and all the fond memories come rushing back.
Over the past two years, we’ve seen the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s make a comeback in fashion and beauty. Next in line to capitalise on the success of the original are nostalgia sequels, reboots and reunions. From recent releases like Top Gun: Maverick, And Just Like That, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Buzz Lightyear, Gossip Girl reboot, The Matrix Resurrections, Friends and Harry Potter reunion to the upcoming Enchanted 2, Legally Blonde 3, Barbie, Hocus Pocus 2, Hera Phera 3— it’s safe to say that the film and television industry is cashing in on our longing to relive the past. The music industry is not far behind with Kate Bush becoming a Gen Z favourite, Avril Lavigne recreating her album cover 20 years later, ABBA’s music trending on TikTok, Miley Cyrus releasing live versions of her older hits The Climb, 7 Things, Party In The USA etc and vinyl records and cassettes becoming trendy again.
But Why Now?
With splintered pop culture trends as a result of the fast pace of social media, it is harder for Gen Z to find unifying cultural moments, which is why they turn to simpler times when the music, fashion, humour etc of popular movies and TV shows like Friends or Harry Potter bonded a whole generation. Unlike millennials, Gen Z has grown up in the lap of digital technology and therefore yearns to experience something more real. It’s ironic how the more we progress in terms of smart devices and social media, the more we pine for a less plugged-in era. The onset of the pandemic also has a huge role to play in the rise of nostalgia as a trend. Travelling to the good old days of the past is perfect to escape the unpredictabilities of the present. It also gives millennials a chance to relive their childhood and teen years, bringing back sweet memories to the surface. No matter the medium, at its core, nostalgia helps to strengthen relationships through shared experiences and fosters a sense of belonging.
Nostalgia In Marketing And Media
In the current zeitgeist, nostalgia is where the money is at. Whether it’s the throwback CRED and Cadbury ads on TV or brand collaborations like Colourpop x Lizzie McGuire and Stella McCartney x Disney— it all strikes a chord on an emotional level. Brands are serving time travel on a platter by tapping into cultural memories and familiar concepts from previous decades to build trust and create a positive association with their product. Nostalgia marketing is the smartest way to attract a larger consumer base by giving millennials something they can relate to and Gen Z something they can escape to. It’s also a lot safer for studios to invest in familiar ideas that have worked in the past to ensure guaranteed profits, which explains the influx of reboots and sequels. The emotional connection of nostalgia heightens the joy of viewing content.
Ideas that merge the past with the present may sell like hot cakes but it makes me wonder what the defining look of the 2020s will be (other than the masks and sanitisers, of course)? If nostalgia is our blueprint for current trends, how can we ever be different from what’s already been offered in the past?