Can nostalgia drive innovation for brands?

Cuisine, leisure, culture and even technology, nothing escapes nostalgia. To avoid getting stuck in the past, some brands use it to reinvent themselves.

What do K-Way, Lego and Renault have in common? These three mythical brands excite all our nostalgic fibers to make us addicted, despite the years. The famous 1960s windbreaker has become a staple in young hipsters’ outfits, while Lego’s ranges for adults have never been more trendy.

Nostalgia is everywhere these days. Could the successive crises we go through have anything to do with it? One thing is certain, brands are surfing our taste for Proust’s madeleine and succeeding in offering the general public a modernized version. Nostalgia, a lever for innovation? this was the theme of the round table proposed by Logic Design and L’ADN on April 14, 2022.

Under the glass roof of the mythical Samaritaine, Thierry Métroz, Style Director of DS Automobiles, Arthur Mettetal, Heritage and Culture Director of the Orient Express and Guillaume Kinzinger of Diggers Factory tried to answer this question.

Idealizing the past to protect yourself from the future: the mechanism of nostalgia

To understand why we are so attached to the past, perhaps we should look at its definition. †A preference for objects that were more familiar to you when you were younger”, tell us Arthur Sotto and Rachel Wagner, strategic planners at Logic Design. Nostalgia therefore acts as a stronghold, even a “hug” in which we like to immerse ourselves in difficult times and the future uncertain. And the health crisis is likely to bring the point home as we see an 88% increase in keywords related to nostalgia on social networks during the first incarceration of 2020.

Logically, the American psychiatrist Alain R. Hirsch answers: “Nostalgia is seen as the longing for an idealized past. It is known as screen memory and is a combination of many different built-in memories. All negative emotions are filtered out.“To protect ourselves from the future, we idealize the past!

While brands like Furby, Tamagochi, and even Pokemon are primarily targeting nostalgic millennials, all age groups are affected. As proof, the hashtag #nostalgia has been mentioned more than 20 billion times on TikTok. In addition, Aurélie Kessous and Elyette Roux, in their book Nostalgia and the relationship of consumers to brands (2010), had identified 4 typical nostalgic profiles: the nostalgic for the past of everyday life that wants to relive a joyful everyday life, the nostalgic for rarity that wants to perpetuate precious memories, the nostalgic for tradition that wants to perpetuate the values ​​of yesteryear and finally the nostalgic of the menopause, who regrets adolescence or the first years of adulthood.

“We are transforming the history of the Orient Express to make it contemporary”

But it is not enough to play the nerve to attract consumers, innovation is the key. Orient Express has understood this. Since 2017, the SNCF and the Accor group have relaunched this historic train line, offering a journey through time aboard a luxury vehicle and hotel. †We checked the impact of this name on the general public by organizing an exhibition in 2014 at the Institut du Monde Arabe. 200,000 people came between April and August”, explains Arthur Mettetal. Thanks to this test phase, the SNCF is sure that the name resonates in the collective imagination. †People don’t know where the train is going, but they have luxury in mind‘ he specifies.

So the railway group and the hotel group have reconciled the best of the old with the comfort of modernity. Contemporary decor in a historic coach, luxurious suites, restaurants, it’s all there. †We are transforming the history of the Orient Express to make it contemporary. Our brand will build on its roots to create a modern proposal”, says the director of heritage and culture of Orient Express.

Especially because the brand is not limited to train travel. Around it, it is a brand extension that goes from the hotel industry to the clothing lines that complete the experience. †It doesn’t come out of nowhere,” says Arthur Mettetal, “originally, in 1883, the company was a technical-commercial complex that brought together its hotels and its trains.

Link an iconic object to a collaborative platform, Diggers Factory crazy bet

While most of us in our 1920s probably never experienced the Orient Express, more of us have experienced the vinyl era. A mythical object that made a dizzying comeback between 2015 and 2017, a success enhanced by the Covid crisis. †People couldn’t go to concerts anymore. Out of frustration they wanted to appropriate an object”, recalls Guillaume Kinzinger of Diggers Factory. Appreciated by those disappointed in the sound of digital, vinyls are now adored by the younger generations. †There is a young generation that has never heard of CDs and is into vinyl! “, he is surprised.

To bring different generations together around a common experience, Diggers Factory had an idea: to combine the best of the past with the technologies of the present and a community approach. Thanks to an online platform, only 100 pre-orders are needed to produce an artist. A way to make a record for emerging artists, but also to re-issue old forgotten albums. †We have over 50% of our buyers who are between 25 and 40 years old. But depending on the types of music we develop, we’ve represented all ages‘ he specifies.

No retro design at DS Automobiles, but a supposed ultra-modernity

How do you create a unique brand when the memories of the general public are at odds with the product on offer today? This is the successful bet of DS Automobiles, which takes its name from the mythical Citroën range, marketed between 1955 and 1975. “We don’t want to do retro design. With DS, we are recreating a brand resolutely rooted in its time, in the future with DNA from the 1955 DS that champions the avant-garde,” explains Thierry Métroz, Style Director of DS Automobiles.

While the brand allows itself some nods to the iconic car, there is no question of locking itself in the past. The key word is innovation! †The products that marked their era weren’t retro, they were ultra-modern‘, he underlines. However, the style director assures him that the soul of the DS lives on in these modern vehicles. †We play with materials on the emotional side. We are very committed to perpetuating the traditional know-how of the automotive range in each of our vehicles. All leather parts are hand-wrapped in a DS”, adds Thierry Métroz.

Without forgetting that the ecological transition and its limitations can itself be a formidable engine of innovation, even in the automotive sector. He explains: “From 2025, all our vehicles will be electrified. We are never as creative as when we are very limited. We try to design vehicles with environmentally friendly materials such as straw or animal free.
In short, to succeed in their nostalgic strategy, brands must manage to strike the perfect balance between the best of the old and the best of the present. Welcome to the age of newstalgia!

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