Through lockdown, when things were tough, we saw a rise in nostalgic content. People were seeking comfort and familiarity in the past.

Once again, we are seeing a fresh wave of nostalgia culture coming to the fore in 2022, with increased anxiety and uncertainty about the future, perhaps prompted by the rapid acceleration of digitalisation.

Recent research indicates:

This may suggest memory and nostalgia can be a vital coping mechanism.

Past is prologue

With increased exposure and interest in content to do with the past, people are becoming more inquisitive and active with it. Some are using the past as inspiration to create new and better things.

We see this in fashion, architecture and music. As Mark Ronson said in his TED Talk: “We live in the post-sampling era. We take things that we love and we build on them.”

As consumers, we typically associate nostalgia with past memories, although studies have also shown that nostalgia can also make people feel more optimistic about the future, creating new pathways.

This is supported by neuroscience research highlighting how the same brain structures are involved in remembering things as in forecasting.

Face the future

However, it can sometimes feel that many brands and platforms are keeping things in the past, simply allowing people to relive the past.

This can feel irrelevant and indulgent, as though we are getting to a point where nostalgia can feel “old” or paralysing.

That’s not to say nostalgia can’t be enjoyed; there is a role for it – but it’s important to consider the current context.

Pivot ‘history’ to ‘horizon’

Brands play a crucial role in the narratives and stories people need in times of crisis (eg Nike’s “Write The Future” campaign).

They can harness nostalgia, and build on memories for a better future.

This could be by using nostalgia as a way into future-facing conversations, or as a tool to create social value – perhaps through playful of memes or creating spaces to reinterpret brand history or assets.

Furthermore, by celebrating past emotional connections, it can empower consumers to share relevant content in an inspiring way.

At News UK, we are naturally well placed to play a significant role in telling nostalgic stories in an engaging and authentic way across our platforms, using them as inspiration to build positive outcomes.

Commercially, we can effectively tell these stories from a brand perspective, in turn unlocking future growth opportunities across our audiences.