Nostalgia is a powerful tool. Like ET phoning home, it can make us yearn for the comfort and familiarity of simpler times, and create that warm fuzzy feeling of sentimental connection. Done right, it should come as little surprise that nostalgic content can pack a bigger punch than a right hook from Rocky Balboa.
That’s why, today, where we’re going, we don’t need roads. Join us as we hop in our DeLorean for a trip down memory lane, delving into the psychology of using beloved throwbacks in content to prove why nobody should put nostalgia in the corner.
The psychology of nostalgia
Unlike The Terminator, we can’t go back in time. In fact, the closest we can get to time travel is through our own memories. And although Simple Minds told us not to forget about them, the fact of the matter is that your memories are unreliable. They are, at their very root, subjective and impressionable.
This means our brain’s recall ability is, at best, mediocre. Recall becomes as much a creative process as anything else, with our brain sketching the outlines of objective memory and filling in the blanks with subjective details. You may think your life’s been like a box of chocolates, but in reality, it’s been a mixture of chocolate, fudge and candy.
While our brain processes numerous different types of memories, the most common of these is explicit memory. This works through pattern association: the brain learns, builds and recalls through the relation and connection of networks.
In these instances, memory retrieval happens through triggers. The right cue in the right environment triggers the recall of a past experience or event. And this recall not only brings back the memory - more often than not, it can bring back the associated feelings, too.
This means that the successful application of nostalgia can make readers feel like they’re Livin’ On A Prayer. Why? Nostalgia creates a positive emotional response through our tendency to remember the good, not the bad. When looking back at past events, we often use a more generalised lens that doesn’t focus on the minute details, providing a more positive and comforting sentiment. It’s Indiana with the ark rather than Indiana in the snake pit.
The positivity of nostalgia doesn’t stop there, either. It also contributes to an improved sense of social connectivity. Nostalgia can combat feelings of loneliness through the power of shared recall. By emphasising a feeling or memory, you’re indicating to your audience that you too remember X - creating a sentimental sense of community that transports you from the empty Footloose warehouse to the middle of the dancefloor.
How to use nostalgia in content
With the positive glow of nostalgia now established, it’s time to say hello to our little friend… content. How can you creatively harness nostalgia to evoke an emotional response in your readers?
The answer: triggers. As we’ve already touched on, explicit recall works through pattern recognition, with the right cues igniting the right sparks for nostalgia to set in. So, by getting clever with your neuromarketing, you can use cues to evoke nostalgia for a particular point in time.
How you go about implementing these cues depends on two fundamental factors. Firstly, it depends on your audience - who are they and what sparks nostalgia in them? For example, anyone alive and kicking back in the ‘80s will have no doubt picked up on the array of ‘80s pop culture references littered throughout this blog post. But will they have been recognised by a fresh-faced millennial? Perhaps not.
Factoring your audience demographic into your use of nostalgia is vital to its success. Take the recent surge in Disney remakes, for example. The timings of popular remakes such as Lion King are no coincidence.
On the contrary, Disney fans who were children when the original motion picture was released are now likely to be parents introducing their own children to the franchise. So, by releasing a remake of a childhood classic, Disney is able to take advantage of nostalgia to create a movie that appeals not only to the child, but to their parents, too.
Age isn’t the only factor to bear in mind when utilising nostalgia in your content. Your content type also plays a pivotal role in how successfully you can deploy this powerful creative weapon.
Sensory nostalgia is the most effective form of nostalgia, as it serves to reinforce the memories our brain recalls. So, where possible, look to utilise multimedia content - videos, photos and music all serve as effective catalysts for sentimental recall. Just look at the onslaught of ‘80s references in Stranger Things, for example.
Nostalgia in content marketing is all about incorporating past themes and feelings into your contemporary strategy to evoke a unique emotional response from your audience. In short, the ultimate success of nostalgic content relies on relevance and reliability - tick those boxes, and you’ll be able to harness the power of nostalgia in your own content.
Struggling to take your readers on a jaunt down memory lane? You don’t need a bigger boat - you just need a helping hand. Get in touch with the content experts at Paragraft today.