Archives for posts with tag: Nostalgia

People often say that you have to look back in order to look forward. This can apply on both personal and work contexts, but obviously has certain limitations.

Past performance, as we’re reminded by companies looking to separate us from some of our money, is no guarantee of nor indeed guide to future performance. It can provide a pattern that might be useful in our future endeavours, but it can’t predict things. Economics, after all, is very handy for explaining what happened and how it happened, but not so great for saying what will happen. Look too at consumer polls over the last few years, and their record with the last US Presidential election and UK referendum; 2016 – the annus horribilis for the polling industry.

I’m not a huge fan of looking back, personally speaking, and in a personal context. I’m not one for nostalgia. I’m happy to reminisce about certain episodes in my past, but I don’t look back on it with fondness or envy. I think I’m afraid to. It’s done, it can’t be changed. What’s the point of going back to a time when we were younger. We’re the age we are right now and there’s nothing else we can influence except the present and future – unless we’re crazed historical revisionists of some crackpot empire.

The other day her Ladyship lent me a novel to read called ‘A Started for 10‘. I hadn’t heard of it, and I later discovered it was made into a film, which I have never seen. It was set in 1980’s university, and revolved around growing up and answering quiz questions. I thought I would love it.

I read it quite quickly, as it’s a well told story, but after a very enjoyable first third I only enjoyed it a little. It was really well observed, but too close to the bone, reminding me of a time when I knew so little about anything, far less than the modest amount of knowledge I have amassed some 30 years later. It was so accurate, and I didn’t want to revisit that level of detail from that time.

I understand that if we don’t look back, we can sometimes take a headlong accelerated journey into what’s around the next corner, and risk wishing away the present. But, looking back for any amount of time, and to any depth, well that’s not for me. I’m not sure it works in work either, as the set of circumstances and factors we deal with changes all the time.

At this time of year marketers like to bring out the cues that tap into our past, as we tend to get all nostalgic and reach for our wallets in a feel-good fog of warm fuzziness.

These cues can be visual, but the one cue that really strikes a chord and brings the memories flooding back is the musical cue. A few bars of the right ditty can bring you back to a precise time and place like very little else.

It’s not just the sounds constructed by composers that bring you back. It can also be sounds constructed by product designers.

We have one of those indestructible kettles in our kitchen. Sick of forking out every year for an electric kettle that seemed programmed to last a month beyond the guarantee period before conking out, Mrs D opted for a more traditional version. It takes a while to boil on a gas hob – and probably uses more energy than an electric plug kettle – and when it boils it emits a gradually more insistent high-pitched whistle that takes me back to my grandmother’s house from a long time ago. In fact, there’s nothing like a kitchen to draw on all 5 of our senses.

The online marketers have the same challenges as television advertisers: you can only rely on sight and sound to evoke the right feeling. The medium of radio can only rely on one sense. That’s an advantage that physical stores have over the remote media: smell, taste and touch. The smell of cinnamon in home and garden stores in December. The taste of the sample turkey food at the supermarket. The all-important squeeze of the avocado or the apple to indicate whether it’s the right time to buy.

Maybe that’s why, when we say ‘I’m getting a sense of deja vu,’ which means ‘already seen’, we often mean any sense of our senses. ¬†For me it’s the sense of sound that brings me back the most strongly.