Head of Data Products, UK

Brits aren’t looking back in anger – in fact, more would prefer to travel to the past than the future

It’s often assumed that nostalgia is reserved for porch-bound oldsters grumbling about how great life was before the internet, hip hop, and mobile phones ruined everything. But research from YouGov and The7Stars reveals that it’s actually a fairly common phenomenon among Brits of all ages: 90% spend at least some time thinking fondly about the way things used to be – and over half would prefer to travel to the past over the future if given the chance (55% versus 28%).

YouGov’s latest whitepaper – Nostalgia: Is it what it used to be? – reveals that many of us are occasionally nostalgic, and almost half of Britons (47%) ‘quite often’ or ‘almost always’ reflect positively on the past.

And while people are more likely to reminisce as they get older, younger generations are also very likely to get wistful. In fact, remarkably, millennials are the generation most likely to ‘almost always’ do so.

So which era offers the most potential to marketers looking to tap into the power of nostalgia?

Brits are most nostalgic for the 1990s

Although preferences vary between generations, the 1990s is the most liked decade across the whole population. Some 61% of us have a fairly or very positive view of the period, while the 2000s is looked upon least favourably and as many as one in five Britons perceive it ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ negatively.

Marketers looking to target a specific generation would be well-advised to evoke symbols associated with its childhood and formative years. Polling points to a particularly strong association with this period of each generation’s life.

The research also reveals that music is the key to evoking nostalgia. In every decade we asked about, music was far and away the strongest positive association respondents mentioned (23% of all mentions), with clothes (4%) and fashion (3%) coming far behind.

Each decade has its own set of strong associations, but for the majority of us, nostalgia is often triggered by a specific time of the year like Christmas or summer.

At a more granular level, a significant subset (21%) of those who agree that advertising helps them choose what to buy, enjoy ads which remind them of the past. For this group, we know that branded emails (33%) and offers via social media (20%) are the channels most likely to lead to a purchase.

Download the full whitepaper here

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