Every generation has its nostalgia. And businesses find a way to profit from it while it lasts. But the need to look back intensifies when a culture is stressed, depressed, out of luck or otherwise discontent.
Enter 2015 — when traditional retrograde movements make a bolder statement about what’s missing in today’s culture, and opportunities for creative types, entrepreneurs and savvy business people will abound.
“The term nostalgia is derived from two Greek words, signifying, in our vernacular, home-sickness,” read the Sanitary Memoirs of the War of the Rebellion, Vol. 1, as published in 1867 by the United States Sanitary Commission. “It is a mental disorder, and belongs to the class melancholia.”
For decades, nostalgia was observed through a mostly medical lens, considered a disorder stemming from a weakness of will. Closely related to homesickness, it was considered a potentially harrowing disorder for those — mostly soldiers — working in grueling conditions away from native lands.
This is the accepted modern definition of nostalgia: a longing for home.
Millennials are most malleable
Baby boomers and seniors are already inspired to return home, back to a time before big box stores dominated the landscape and corporations and big banks ruled so much of the economy. They crave the uniqueness, craftsmanship and creativity they remember from past eras.
Millennials, oversaturated by technology and multimedia, are not naturally prone to look back for inspiration or comfort. For younger generations, distribution and expediency of information trump quality in the modern world.
For boomers, the yearning for all things genuine, real and unique will grow stronger largely on its own because these age groups have already experienced those qualities earlier in their lives.
Younger generations have not. And therein lies both the challenge and the enormous potential. For them, the substance that makes for good nostalgia simply isn’t being created in their youthful years. But, conditioned as they are to modern-day sameness, this group will respond to beauty, authenticity and uniqueness when exposed to it. In music, in art, in fashion, in entertainment…we see examples where today’s youth retro fit qualities of generations past for their present and their future.
Today, a sustained poor global economy, endless war, immorality among world leaders and political polarization have compelled younger generations to seek refuge in the technology at their fingertips. Human embrace, engagement and experience are too often overwhelmed in this techno world. But those qualities aren’t lost; they are just muted.
How far back will the millennials reach? What do they want? What will they watch, wear, eat, drink and yearn from the past that will fulfill their needs and satisfy their dreams?
With just the right amount of strategic prodding and encouragement, this group is ideally positioned to cherry pick from the past the best ingredients to lay claim to a culturally more creative, distinctive present.
They are tired of the sameness. They are ready to awaken.