Nostalgia has a new kid on the block, with the ‘good old days’ now being more recent than ever.  So much so that we’ve coined another new phrase – ‘neo-nostalgia’ – to sit alongside the ‘faustalgia’ we identified in 2019 (defined as those who think fondly or feel nostalgic about decades they have not actually experienced) as part of our study Nostalgia: Is it What is Used to be?

‘Neo-nostalgia’ is defined as a fondness for the recent past.   Exacerbated by the current climate and enforced lockdown, 1 in 3 Brits agree they are feeling most nostalgic for a time within the past 12 months, 1 in 10 admitted their nostalgia was for a time earlier this year.    Those most likely to be feeling ‘neo-nostalgic’ are the 18-34’s, with their top reasons cited as ‘missing my friends’, feeling ‘life is on pause’ or feeling ‘frustrated and bored’.

Nostalgia for any era has a key role to play in helping people cope with lockdown.  Research with the7stars Lightbox Pulse in the past two weeks identified that looking back makes people feel happy (44%), comforted (41%), grateful (32%) and relaxed (31%).   So it’s not surprising that nostalgia provides a welcome relief from the here and now, with a further 30% agreeing nostalgic activities are helping them to avoid COVID-19 related communications.

There’s been plenty of evidence that points to nostalgic behaviours taking place across the country, from a surge in online searches for baking and retro recipes, to traditional board games and jigsaws selling out.   Another interesting area of nostalgic referencing is also evident in music and TV media consumption habits, with 4 in 10 realising their nostalgic indulges in this way.  Topping the nostalgic music charts so far has been music from the 1990’s and 2000’s.  Whatever your preference music is a facilitator of transporting to another time, whether that’s Iron Maiden or The Spice Girls.   One respondent put it aptly – “I’m listening to Backstreet Boys, Five, Spice Girls, NSync – that reminds me of the best time of my life”.

Interestingly, the majority of British adults would like to go back to a previous time rather than go forwards to the future with 49% saying if time travel were possible, they would prefer to go backwards rather than forwards (30%).  It was only the 18-34’s who were more likely to want to go forward in time (40%), reflecting the fact that they feel lockdown has interrupted the forward direction of their personal lives and future careers.

We’ve identified three ways brands can capitalise on the trend of ‘neo-nostalgia’:

Capitalise on brand equity

Building on what brands and products are already known and appreciated for through the reassuring confirmation of tropes and familiar assets is a potent way to connect to audiences in uncertain times.

Help people face the future with confidence

It’s clear that people aren’t feeling confident about the future. Brands should think about how they can add the most value to consumers – whether educating those looking for new skills or entertaining people in need of light relief.

Fuse an analogue aesthetic with digital distribution

There’s plenty of opportunities to tap into stories of a resurgent past, and digital still has a huge role to play in how this content is distributed at scale.  Listen to the conversations taking place and take inspiration for how your brand can join in or put a spotlight on (re)emerging communities of interest.