The Past is Never Dead

I was not very productive last week. Fortunately, I know the source of the problem and can address it. But, it really was not my fault that I was distracted from my work. I was attracted to a trend that seems to be sweeping Facebook recently- group pages related to one’s hometown. For me, the page “You might be from West Point, MS if u remember…” was the lure. I noticed the page for a couple of days but did not bother to visit, but when I did I found myself watching a virtual highlight reel of my childhood.

Memories flooded my mind of people, places, and events that made up life in our small town. I eagerly anticipated reading others’ thoughts about their experiences. One of the first thoughts I had as I read posts from others in the group was wondering how long this would last. After all, West Point is a small town- will the group complete its collective historical compilation in a few days or weeks and the group page slowly die? Upon further reflection, I realized this page will not die anytime soon. I thought of the William Faulkner quote from Requiem for a Nun: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

We hold onto the past- the good and sometimes even the bad, but we hold on. There are a variety of reasons for our affinity with the past: simpler times, youthfulness, relationships, and certainty, to name a few. Given the turmoil of the day, looking back for something positive as an anchor is an understandable tendency.

This longing for the past extends to the relationships we have with brands. Many comments on my hometown’s Facebook group page relayed people’s fond memories of a restaurant, store, or other business in town. Many of the businesses we reminisced about are gone today, but the impact they had on our lives remains.

The power possessed by nostalgia should not be overlooked by marketers. While so much emphasis is placed on innovation, “new and improved,” and technological advances, appealing to consumers’ feelings of nostalgia can be a powerful connector. Proven ideas, products, and campaigns often run their course or evolve, but that does not mean they have to be mothballed never to be seen again.

What do you know, do, or sell that would resonate with your customers’ associations with the past? It is a question worth exploring from time to time because “the past never is never dead- it’s not even past.”

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