Nostalgia & Creativity: Tourists In Our Own Youth?


The lights dimmed. The crowd whooped. Then from somewhere in Row J came a complaint to a patron who’d indulged a little too much in the sweet tonic wine of Buckfast Abbey.

‘Get tae ya pr**k! Or ah’ll bite yer fu*#!in face aff!’

And with that, the entire cinema took another mouthful of popcorn and set phasers to nostalgia for the return of Renton, Spud, Sick Boy and Begbie. T2 was in town.


The movie plays unashamedly on memories and nostalgia as the gang reflect on twenty years passed and what they have, or haven’t achieved with Sick Boy accusing Mark of being a ‘tourist in his own youth’. With Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal rolling back the years and squaring up in an epic Australian Open tennis final, it was certainly a weekend not short on nostalgia.

An opportune moment, perhaps to consider how brands tap into this, and why? Are we all just tourists?

Marketeers indulge in nostalgic campaigns and designs in an attempt to create an emotional bond with their audience, hooking them in by saying ‘yeah, we know..we get you’. In an age of super savvy customers, of hyper-connectivity and a daily avalanche of media voices and images, the emotional hook between provider and consumer is more sought after than ever. Nostalgia allows brands to tap into customers desires to bring memories to life, to (even fleetingly) relive moments they thought had passed and to celebrate the fact that other like-minded souls feel the same way.

Pokemon Go was nostalgia in a global flash mob expression, Stranger Things made a hero of Netflix as children of the 80s melted over memories of E.T., kids on bikes and moody indie records. How many iPhone users grew up sharing a love of cookies with this loveable blue Sesame Street monster?


Of course this can be, and very often is, a very cynical ploy to monetise memory, to find ever more covert ways of parting a customer with their cash. But what can we say? Capitalism innit? When done well, a nostalgic approach to design and branding can reconnect a brand with its roots, can convey the true sense of it and can deliver a genuinely enjoyable experience for the intended audience, matching the right product to the right punter… a kind of Tinder for transactions.


We opened a bar a few years back whose entire schtick was an exercise in pushing emotive triggers through nostalgic touches and retro titbits. From an old school OHP projector in place of a specials board to retro Tennent’s beer taps, a Super Nintendo and a Sega Mega Drive to play on and a few 90s wresting figures on the back bar, to pick out just a few, it sought to revive hazy memories and raise a smile from a new generation of drinkers tired of super slick and clinically clean offerings.

Last year North Design looked back to take the Co-op brand forward. Stripping it back to a modernised version of the classic 1968 logo, it encourages customers to remember the core brand value of fairness. It’s an aesthetic nod that says, ‘we remember our roots and we still believe’. The new (old) look does however, inject a sea of fresh, modern colour which ensures the brand is positioned as relevant and dynamic as well as traditional with strong foundations. A tweak really well done we think.

Co op are going back for the future to reboot their brand.
The sporting world is dominated by the duelling behemoths of Nike and Adidas, with both companies manufacturing the majority of football shirts in particular. Smaller manufacturers, without such intense financial clout, are looking at more nostalgic ways to find their market share. Brands such as Le Coq Sportif, Kappa and Umbro are tapping into the history of clubs and of their own designs to really make a connection with the fans (the consumers) and make their own contribution to a club’s legacy.

Umbro are tapping into supporter nostalgia and club legacy with their recent shirt designs.

Speaking of Nike, the sneaker industry (might as well use the Yankee terminology) is soaked in nostalgia, with Nike in particular constantly re-inventing classic designs. When I was 12 years old and had a £25 spend limit for trainers from the Cash & Carry, I wouldn’t have imagined that the Nike Air Max and Huarache that I was convinced EVERYONE ELSE WAS WEARING, would still be churned out 21 years later. But they are. Street fashion always looks to the legacy of musical and cultural movements and sneaker heads are particularly drawn to golden years of Hip-Hop with brands relentlessly playing on this emotive tie in to convince the punters that ‘they get it’.

The original Huarache. That I never owned.

Scotland’s pint of choice, Tennent’s has long championed the nostalgic route to market with the walls leading up to Wellpark Brewery mothership adorned with Lager Lovelies, retro can designs and old campaigns. For the recent Friday 13th date, Tennent’s revived one of their most popular adverts from the 90s on their Facebook page. 270 000 views and a heap of engagement later, the brand had ample proof that the customer base approved and a handy launchpad for the forthcoming ‘auld school Heritage Packs’ to further tick a box with those who remember.

A campaign so darned effective that I think I might just go and rekindle some fond memories of my own… and murder one right now.