What are your early memories of technology? Did you have a wireless analogue radio, a VHS video player or Sony Walkman? Which toys were your childhood favourites? What was the first movie you saw in a cinema? What was the first record you ever bought? What was your school uniform like? What did you do during the school holidays? Where were you living ten years ago? Twenty years ago?
Ask your friends, family or work colleagues any of the above and you’ll find it triggers a conversation punctured with stories, wistful laughter and moments of intense nostalgia. You get that feeling that life was more simple then. Things were “somehow better in those days”.
Nostalgia comes from two Greek words that essentially mean “homecoming pain”, but it’s less about a specific place, and more of a general feeling about a time in our lives. While nostalgia may seem to be a negative experience, scientists believe it serves a positive function. People who experience naturally frequent moments of nostalgia report greater wellbeing and more optimism about the future. It appears to serve as a way of providing a sense of continuity in our lives, a better connection with others and more gratitude for things we have now.
It’s a rose-tinted illusion though. In those nostalgic moments we airbrush out all the negative feelings and the daily frustrations we experienced in the past, and instead gloss over the memory with a positive emotion. Even sad times become bitter-sweet. Because it’s in the past, we also know how things turned out, so memories have a cosy certainty to them, unlike the daily things we struggle with today.
The biggest nostalgia triggers come from smells (a favourite meal your mother made you when you were a child, the perfume worn by your first love), and sounds (like the tunes you and your friends listened to one carefree summer). Smells and sounds bypass the thinking brain and go straight to the emotional centre, where it quickly changes our emotional state.
For a dose of nostalgia, visit thenostalgiamachine.com, choose a year and be entertained by that year’s greatest hits. (You're welcome!)
You don’t even have to have lived through an era yourself to feel nostalgia for it. Thanks to the rich array of vivid multi-media stories, movies and advertising, it’s possible to still experience nostalgia for something we haven’t personally experienced before.
If your product or service (or your marketing) can somehow connect customers with their former selves, it will evoke a strong positive emotion in them and contribute to a feeling of optimism. Remember too, your customers’ experience now could become part of a nostalgic memory for their future selves…