Whilst having an oddly intense craving for a Sherbet Fountain today, I started realising how much ‘retro’ food and snacks I’d been eating over the last couple of months. Some of this most likely from spending the Christmas period alone (cheers Boris) and missing the well-worn family traditions; the homemade mince pies, the heavily iced Christmas Cake with the Antiques Roadshow-worthy original 1970’s decorations, the giant tub of Twiglets and the seemingly never-ending tin of Quality Street - but also a definite shift in my own behaviour during almost a year of lockdown to think about and seek out the past. That doesn’t (always) mean stalking ex’s on Facebook…. but yearning and wanting to escape to a place where times were simpler, happier or just more ‘normal’.
Social media has undoubtedly driven a trend towards nostalgia for years now; getting tagged in old school class photos, your #throwbackthursday profile pic set as a 3-year old version of yourself, being reminded what we were doing this time last year, notifying us of ‘memories’....albeit some we’d rather forget of the terrible sunburn with matching hangover in Tenerife 2005.
BUT during a year where a majority of us have been confined to our humble abodes, working from home, socialising via Zoom and rarely venturing further than the local Saino’s, our normal life experience as we know it has come to a stand still. No weekend brunches, coffee with friends, cinema trips, sweaty indie gigs, dramatic Pinter plays, museum mooching, Spring-time city breaks (remember travel?!) or even last minute pub meetups with friends or family and HUGS. And that’s without even touching on the state of humanity, global affairs and world politics that has ever-so neatly paralleled our glorious year in a pandemic.
YET SOMEHOW amongst the doom and gloom - and even in my glass-half-empty-world - the warmth of nostalgia has kept me going, given my mental health a small injection of positivity and a reminder that things have been better, happier and will NOT be this way forever. Imagine if this pandemic and lockdown situ had happened 10-15 years ago, before we had the technological advances to support a more virtual world?
The array of entertainment and streaming services go at least some way in filling the culture gap that arts, music and theatre have so temporarily-yet-painfully left. I’ve taken to audibly thanking Netflix for checking in on me during boxset binges; where the usual passive-aggressive tone of ‘ARE YOU STILL WATCHING?’ would have made me feel guilty for being 7-episodes deep in a true crime docu-series since I rolled out of bed at 11am on a Saturday, I’m now grateful for the kind outreach.
And it’s not even the hot-off-the-press new series or movies that have often been the saviour of a drizzly weekend inside the same four-walls. I’ve seen countless tweets and posts from friends and acquaintances about rewatches of their favourite sitcoms or dramas from decades ago. Or finally having the chance to catch up on those bucket-list movies or boxsets that you never quite got round to watching in the early noughties (except Lost - some things should be left in the past).
Ok so it’s not ALL rainbows and unicorns - this retro screen time arguably points out a lack of racial diversity, political incorrectness and terrible excuses for technology - but it serves at least to give us a reminder that we have moved on in so many ways for the better.
Some of us might be bored silly with the Zoom quizzes and catch-ups by now, but a winter lockdown has made them more appealing again to me. Give me a 90’s music round any day over a current affairs round in said quiz; not only is it an awesome 20 minutes of misremembering lyrics, hazy snapshot recollections of all the fun, and throwback memories to my ‘youth’ (trying to convince myself here that I’m still very young, despite being fuming the hairdressers is still closed and greys need covering pronto..) - it’s pure escapism. Away from the toils and stresses of the world at large, from the daily grind and loss of control from normal life - and back to a time where our minds can, for the most part, focus on good times, giving us an emotional blanket for a couple of hours.
We’ve settled down into a world of work that has pivoted and changed operationally where required, yet often the biggest challenges have been getting used to a non-office based environment. Building and maintaining professional relationships virtually, when you’re used to being able to build rapport more quickly and easily within the same office does continue to pose a challenge. As does the trying-too-hard version - where invasive video calls that REALLY should’ve been an email can be forced upon you on a daily basis. FYI, nobody believes your webcam is broken, Kevin, just put last night's leftovers down, get some trousers on, be a grown up and join the 9am stand up call like the rest of us.
Perhaps drawing on that nostalgia and keeping one foot in the past is the best way to go to adapt your behaviours at work; without going full Mad Men - I’m not suggesting bringing back a smoking-and-drinking-at-your-desk with a heavy air of misogyny - but maybe in a world of innovation and the drive for the next best thing, we should be revisiting what has worked well in the past.
Be that a marketing campaign, an approach to lead generation, a way of working with a cross functional team. We don’t do post-project reviews for nothing - there must be some hidden gems of success or genius in there that we’ve lost along the way.
And what about getting the basics right first? Or revisiting the foundations to check their sturdiness? We all love to be the one bringing advancement and change to the table; implementing a new project or martech platform or advertising campaign - but are the bases of the strategy still strong and clear? Is there STILL a breakdown in communication between sales and marketing? HAVE we spread our media budget too thinly to glean any real results or even trends?
One thing we’ve all probably learnt is that there’s no one size fits all approach with anything during a pandemic - what works well for one person or organisation, is another's worst nightmare. Unless we’re talking about After Eight Mints. EVERYONE loves those, right?
It may be time to reach into the past for lessons, a change of behaviour and those warm retro feels.
On that note, I’m off to do my best impression of the Accrington Stanley milk advert on a family Zoom catch-up call, so until next time.
by Sarah Dyer, Marketing Manager. Part of The Understood Collective.