Is nostalgia giving us a canvas to re-inject passion and meaning?

A remarkable thing happened in the office last week. We got a handwritten postcard from one of our new software vendors.

I know – a handwritten postcard!

So momentous was the occasion that it even managed to get a reaction out of engineering – a team notorious for having an aversion to any sort of Marketing effort. As the postcard got passed around to nods of approval, I tried to remember the last time I’d received a handwritten note of any sort.

I couldn’t.

And even though on closer inspection it revealed itself to be one of those machine-written-handwriting-in-disguise thingamajigs (oh those clever, clever Marketing people), the warmth of the gesture remained intact. If anything, it opened up a debate that took in everything from the dying art of letter writing, to the relevance (or irrelevance?) of a hotmail account and that current, most excellent of excellent shows – Stranger Things.

But when you boiled the conversation down, the overarching sentiment was one of nostalgia.

It raised an interesting question: can a revival in nostalgia be authentic enough to tap into ones psyche favorably? Are we pining for certain things because of an emotional attachment to halcyon days of the past, wanting to capture a fleeting moment that will never be again? Or at a time when cultural zeitgeist has stagnated, overrun by the same recycled ideas, lack of emotional resonance and a focus on vacuous pursuits, is nostalgia giving us a canvas to re-inject passion and meaning?

Part of it I believe stems from exactly that; a depravation of things that have meaning. I see countless examples everyday of what I can only describe as lazy marketing. Marketing done with factory-line production values. If there ever was a winter of Marketing discontent, this is it. Our outputs have become nothing more than yet another list of ‘5-great-tips-for-how-to-growth-hack-your-way-to-an-SEO-rich-content-marketing-strategy-come-viral-social-media-campaign-for-engaging-buyers’.

I think not. As Marketers we seem to be stuck in a limbo of herd mentality conformity and it’s just depressing.

Take the art of writing for instance. For years, Marketers subscribed to the importance of only advocating short, snappy, zingy content. ‘No-one will read that’ was the self-righteous conclusion to any proposed written content over 500 words. TL;DR became the lazy skim-reader’s moniker.

But guess what? Long-form content is having its deserved glory moment, having decoupled itself from the layers and layers of dross we’ve been producing. We’ve just come full circle, delirious in our starvation for something creative, something with a whiff of quality associated with it.

Stop and consider the extent to which we’re surrounded by a revolving door of ephemeral trends and popular culture littered with boring me-too’s. It’s only then do you come to realize why good content, fine penmanship and content that tickles your senses enough to cause an effect is vitally important.

We’ve become desensitized to the things that matter, egged on by the immediacy of communication mediums dishing content to encourage a minute attention span. And while I love the progress we’ve made as a human race and look forward to what advancements are yet to come, I’m very invested in believing these very things are driving what’s behind nostalgia being reimagined.

Actually, one of my colleagues summed it up perfectly. For him, Stranger Things went far beyond just being the latest spookfest. From music and film, to video games and gadgets, it encapsulated all the things he felt passionate about from his youth. And it was infectious because here we are, a week later and every person in our office without fail spent the Bank Holiday weekend watching at least one episode of the hit show out of sheer intrigue.

How is it that a simple show made for a niche viewing audience can conjure up such fervent interest?

It can, because it meant something.

Let’s continue to be relevant and have meaning. So thank you Rob Campbell, Desert Island Discs, The Guardian and The Atlantic Long reads, Martin Weigel, Jason Cohen and the other, too many to mention do-gooders who continue to influence and enrich.


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