Nostalgia: A Beautiful Lie

Nostalgia – a wistful sense of a known belonging. As appealing as it might sound, so is the meaning – the pain from an old wound. But, is it really just a past memory or a bittersweet feeling that comforts people?

Ever thought, how this feeling of nostalgia is being exploited in the day to day lives? If one looks around and observes, today most of the things, be it advertisements, movies, web series, any start-up idea, marketing and the list continues, has been associated with the feeling of connectedness from some past memory.

If the advertisements generate more nostalgia, it gets more viewership and liking, helping the company build its brand. This happens because these ads trigger the memories and longing of the younger and simpler years of the user base and one seeks to go back to that familiar time, once enjoyed. As a result the consumers are put in a happy mood, which in turn increases their probability of buying that product.

For example, CRED, a start up by Kunal Shah targets the audience who have good income streams and usually these would be the kids who would have grown up in the mid 90’s and hence, one can find the singing sensation Bappi Lahiri to Bollywood legends such as Madhuri Dixit, Govinda and Anil Kapoor, pitching for the product and not Priyanka Chopra, Vicky Kaushal or Ranbir Kapoor.

Recently, it starcasted Sonu Nigam and Shaan in one of their ads vibing to a new tune altogether, that reminds people of the crazy editing skills era, everyone has gone through once in their lifetime.

Their sole aim is to spread a wonderful word of mouth – which means to create products or advertisements which make people talk with each other about that product, by creating nostalgia among people.

Not only CRED, but other brands like Levis and Double Mint, have also been using this strategy of creating nostalgia in their ads, where one can see the actors of today acting and grooving on the old retro songs.

The exploitation of nostalgia for economic profits is more evident, when it comes to the entertainment industry.

If observed carefully, Bollywood is filled with movies that evoke the feeling of nostalgia in some way or the other, unknowingly.

83 was a big hit, recently, which beautifully depicted Kapil Dev’s story. The cricket fans overwhelmingly cheered for the movie because it took them back to the time when cricket as a sport and game had started becoming popular. But, it’s not only cricket that helps the movie makers, invoke the feeling of nostalgia.

There are different ways in which Bollywood has been creating the feeling of social connectedness for its audience successfully.

  1. Movies like MS Dhoni – The Untold Story, Gunjan Saxena – The Kargil Girl, Saina, Sanju, Azhar, Neerja, Mary Kom, etc were loved, praised and appreciated by the audience. The one thing common in all of the mentioned movies is that, these are all biopics of some famous personality.
  2. The increasing amount of historical content and the amazing cinematography is the cherry on top. Here, one can point that the historical content is consumed by a certain type of audience, preferably the older generation rather than the younger ones. However, movies like Jodha Akbar, Bajirao Mastaani, Padmavat, Gangubai Kathiawadi, Tanhaji, Manikarnika, etc were loved by everyone, especially the youth. This can be related to the emotion one feels after taking a look at the black & white photographs in the album. The cinematography takes the audience to an unknown yet familiar time and a place that is gone by. It induces the yearning for the place without experiencing the reality of actually being there – basically, longing for the unknown time. It’s known as Anemoia, a terminology used within the concept of nostalgia. Examples like Ludo and The Sky is Pink cannot be ignored.
  3. The amount of remakes and sequels of an already hit and popular movie done by Bollywood is unmatched. From Koi Mil Gaya to Krish 3, Don to Don 2, The Dhoom Series, Love Aaj Kal and the list continues. People continue to relate with the repetitive content just to remember the times when they watched the original movie, reconnecting it to the past.
  4. Another way is putting the reference of some place or city in the movie title as a clickbait for the audience. For example, Once upon a time in Mumbai, Delhi 6, Bombay Talkies, Go Goa Gone, etc.

However, in the end, it all depends on the consumption choices of people. In economics, we assume the consumers to be rational – the one who makes decisions to buy goods and services in order to achieve the maximum utility and satisfaction. Here, the consumer’s decision is whether to start spending on the consumption of the nostalgic content, and if it is worth continuing spending money on the same content in the future.

When the consumers’ needs and wants are unlimited, it doesn’t always matter what items are being purchased, as long as that good or service has the ability to provide the value that satisfies the desires.

It is obvious that people do tend to spend on this type of content from their wallets and purses.But, here the question arises, how and why consuming nostalgic content is ensuring maximum utilisation for the rational consumers ?

It creates a yearning phase to travel via time machine and return to simpler and carefree times. Marketers in the business have been using this yearning to their advantage. Nowadays, the content creators heavily focus on turning back the clock and transporting to a time, where the current responsibilities, stress, problems don’t matter and the current hustle culture doesn’t exist.

Instead of worrying about the future, nostalgia marketing induces us to sit back, relax and take a break from the modernity of life. Especially when everyone has been feeling overwhelmed by the pandemic, nostalgia works like a stress reliever. It helps people to escape from the anxieties, even if it’s for a brief period of time.

But, is this strategy sustainable in the long run? It can be answered by analysing two perspectives.

  • In the long run, the value of nostalgic content will depreciate, as consumers at a point would get bored of consuming the same and repetitive content. They would start searching for something new. It happens when a particular good or service starts getting produced in abundance, consumers generally lose interest in it because it is no longer limited in quantity.

For instance, The Bollywood Music Industry started remixing and recreating old Songs in the 90’s. It turned out to be a hit, because it was something new and fascinating for the people, then. Hence, they immediately started grooving and vibing to those songs. However, cut to the present, it has become a trend. Every other movie in Bollywood has some or other familiar song with added beats. Music lovers have constantly shown their disappointment that the industry is now out of fresh ideas.

  • Another perspective can be, nostalgia is a never ending vulnerability phase that will be experienced by every generation, as it will age and hence, people continue to consume the same content on the nostalgia trope.

Because, the concept of nostalgia is not new, however, the realisation is. It is apparent from the movies like Mughal – E – Azam, being released in 1960, a time of limited exposure to entertainment as compared to the present time and still becoming a huge success. Today, consumers are exposed to wide and diverse choices of movies and web series not only from India but also outside the Indian Languages. With the coming of the digital era via various platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc, Indian Consumers have slowly started acknowledging their longing for simpler times. Hence, they continue to empathize with the nostalgic content which gets them ready to go to the theatres to watch the movie or to binge watch a web series from their couch itself.

Nonetheless, creating nostalgia through content is a great strategy to attract the consumers towards the good or the service that the producers want to sell.

On one side, when the producers are reaping economic benefits the consumers on the other side of the coin are gaining psychological benefits by being able to relive the good old times.

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