Hitting the Right Balance of Nostalgia and New: Getting Back to Simplicity in Natural Food and Beverage Marketing
Is there any expression of nostalgia more evocative than the chorus of “Big Yellow Taxi?” There are the feelings of loss and resignation; the ephemeral, suddenly-happening and suddenly-over passage of time; the splendor and depth of what once was, flattened under the shiny asphalt of what now is. It’s a song with a message anyone can understand and relate to: the past was paradise, and the present is (ugh) a parking lot.
Such is the weird, slippery, frequently paradoxical nature of nostalgia. The past isn’t really past until we’re nostalgic for it—and then we’re experiencing it all over again, or perhaps experiencing it for the first time, in the present. It makes us aware of the distance between then and now. We feel rooted in one moment while existing entirely in another.
In effect, nostalgia adds punctuation to time. It gives shape to the stories we tell ourselves about our lives.
And then, as the days and years pass, we become nostalgic for nostalgia: Remember 80s parties, where we all celebrated the music and fashion of the 80s? Remember the retro 50s aesthetic in Back to the Future? Or the swing craze of the 90s? Or Don Draper in 1960, played by Jon Hamm in 2007, using moments from his own life—that is, the life of an identity he stole—to pitch a real, nonfictional marketing campaign to Kodak? It’s like looking at a photo of a photo, or an endless series of reflections between two mirrors.
The Challenge of Marketing with Nostalgia
In our daily work, we recognize the power of nostalgia. We know it’s something to be wielded mindfully. Misapplied, nostalgia causes us to misremember our experiences—we recall what we want to recall, and forget what we want to forget. Overapplied, nostalgia creates that migraine-inducing, postmodern vortex: memories of having memories of having memories.
But in the proper measure, a taste or glimpse or sensation of the past is like a hug from grandma or the smile of a lost love. It reminds us of what’s important. It tells us who we were and who we are.
It would be wrong to say we’re explicitly thinking and talking about all this psychology when we’re making stuff here at Grady Britton. Moreso, the tension and questions around nostalgia sit in some corner of our shared subconscious. It circles back to a theme we’ve explored time and time again on this blog: authenticity. What does an authentic experience of nostalgia look, feel, sound, smell, and taste like? How do you hopefully make someone feel like a kid again without beating them over the head with it—this is supposed to be nostalgic, damnit?
Bringing Nostalgia Back to Expo West 2017
It was with all of this philosophical mumbo-jumbo, a lot of care and late-night conversations that led us to develop our backward-looking, forward-looking Expo West 2017 take-home swag:
As a follow-up to last year’s boxes of prepaid flip phones, we gave out handcrafted stereoscopes modeled after the View-Master toys you may have looked through as a kid in the 60s, 70s, 80s, or 90s. Each “viewfinder” came preloaded with a seven-image reel featuring quotes from our clients and role models, alongside a mini sample of our work. All focused on the necessity and beauty of simplicity in natural and organic food and beverage marketing.
At an event where a few exhibitors conducted (admittedly very cool) tours of farms in virtual reality, we had something much more analog, but no less immersive. Each of the seven frames that made up the slides were rendered in 3D: certain elements “pop out,” while others appear to recede. It’s an old-school effect with new-school sensibility.
The response we received was overwhelming. In the land of endless booths, florescent lights and lots and lots of networking, Expo West attendees were surprised and delighted with the simplicity of the viewmasters. They loved clicking through the images and watching each 3D frame shift in and out of focus. People told us the experience filled them with memories and nostalgia, even if they had never had the chance to use a stereoscope during childhood.
Above all, our goal was to give people the experience of being a kid again—the thrill of figuring something out for the first (or fiftieth) time, the tactile pleasure of playing with a toy, the joy of reconnecting with something you thought you’d forgotten. We believe it’s an experience worth feeling nostalgic for.
Want to check out the viewfinder for yourself? Stop by our office sometime to snag one of the few we have left.