Nostalgia is a term that keeps popping up when reading about character design. It seems to be important on several levels.
Nostalgia is originally a greek word and equals the term homesick – but it is also broader defined as a sentimental yearning after earlier and simpler times – often (but not always) it is a longing for childhood.
We love to recognize and revive positive experiences from the past – because it makes us feel good. Human beings do have selective memories and thrives better when focusing on the happy and positive.
A study found that repressing embarassing memories for long enough can lead to us erasing them completely
So if a brand character succeeds in beeing able to give us that positive vibe from the past, we will love and trust them. And therefore characters that continuously are reinvented and re-introduced in successful ways can have a very long life.
The Michelin man is for example 121 years old.
And this girl might at first sight seem young, but Matilde, who is the mascot of Arla’s drinking chocolate is 45 years old. And although she is middle aged, she has just been center of attention for young girls in a very popular social media campaign asking danish people to find girls looking like Matilde. For all of us who grew up with Matilde on the shelves in the supermarket and drikning the chocolate at birthday parties and for breakfast at weekends she is a nostalgic item.
And in the future Matilde will most likely also be present in the memories of all the girls participating in the competition:
Matilde look-alikes summer 2015 from the competion Jagten på Matildepigen on Instagram #matildepigen
Nostalgia will favorably affect spokes-character trust
Niedrich, R. W.,Spokes-Characters: Creating trust and positive Brand attitudes
But there are other aspects linking nostalgia to brand characters. Last week I was discussing how cute characters affects us in my blogpost The power of kawaii! – and I established that seeing cute stuff makes us happy.
Yesterday I read an article (Russell, L., T., M., A socio-marketing analysis of the concept of cute and its consumer culture implications – 2014 Journal of Consumer Culture) and the article suggests that there is a kind of escapism from real life in the widespread and growing attraction to and celebration of cuteness. Scientists who have studied the land of the cute (yes I’m talking about Japan) and the spreading of cuteness to the rest of the world say that:
Cute products attests to a rapidly expanding desire for cute, cuddly, reassuring comsumption experinces.
We seek out cute things when we need reassurance during stress
So cuteness is comforting us when the world is demanding. And how is this related to nostalgia? well dealing with the cute and celebrating it in an efford to partake some of the childhood’s simplicity, happiness and emotional warmth.
And taking it futher: ‘rebelllion from society in Japanese youth culture has developed into a rebellion from adulthood’ p.79. Japanese stay young by being cute.
Taking nostalgia to it’s logical conclusion: Adoring cuteness could very well be linked to this ‘moratorium mentality’ – a lack of desire to grow up!