By Brad Ross, Global Trend Forecasting
The idea that we live in a nostalgia-soaked culture is not necessarily new. Retro-styled automobiles, historical novels, costume dramas, flashback fashion and Hollywood remakes are all big business and have been for some time. But what is driving this accelerated obsession with cultural artifacts of our recent past, this “retromania”, which is curiously juxtaposed to an era of unprecedented technological growth?
From my perspective in fashion design and trend forecasting, it is here, that I began to take note of the shifts in, not only the velocity of the trend, but also the consumer behavior attached to it. And it led me to a convergence of four factors that are, if not in whole, certainly in part, the answer to this question.
In the last 20+ years, we’ve experienced Moore’s Law of technological inventions, from the advent of public World Wide Web (internet) to Panasonics new Magic Mirror unveiled a few months ago. Each advancement, individually and collectively, has delivered a disruption to the way we work, play and live. However, tech innovation is inherently about utility and operates generally with the goal of efficiency at its’ core. The increasing dilemma is how to effectively and concurrently address the need for human touch, which, machines alone cannot provide.
The unique answer to this challenge comes from one distinct generation: the “Millennials” aka “Generation Y” (born between 1982-2000, they are 80 million plus and the largest cohort size in history). This generation was raised mostly by Baby Boomer parents, who instilled in them a confidence that they could accomplish anything, thus imbuing them with an unusually high level of self-esteem. They are the first generation of digital natives in which the Internet and technology are synonymous with whom they are as people. They connect primarily through social media, which is now naturally integrated in their decision-making. The Internet is unequivocally the defining influence on these natives and their dependence on it for managing almost every aspect of their lives, is clearly evident.
I think you will agree, that today we don’t have to work very hard to remember things. A simple search on Google provides immediate and abundant information, when needing to access things forgotten and/or never experienced. This ability to simultaneously sample different decades, past and present, has ushered in the unique “mash up”, witnessed today. Millenials are impacting the collective whole through a relatively new process of cutting and pasting different styles and time periods, all the while cleverly mixing them with contemporary technology (i.e. Pinterest). The result is a revival in vinyl records, rockabilly fashion and diners, interestingly right alongside the industrial revolution trend of craft beers, organic farming, handmade items and gourmet food trucks.
It is this nostalgic element that helps us balance the equation between technology and the desire for human interaction. Despite the original connotation of the word nostalgia (“a disorder”), studies have actually shown that nostalgia has proven to counteract loneliness, boredom and anxiety. Knowingly or unknowingly, Millenials are successfully tapping in to this remedy. With the amazing technological ability to access a labyrinth of information, in tandem with the idealized warmth of people and community of past eras, a “new normal” of retromania is defined, by this generation.
These four factors, Technology, Millenials, Information and Nostalgia, are the new way of thinking, when it comes to consumer trends and behavior. When considering these societal driving forces, it will better prepare us to navigate the current world.
Check back next month and every month for more Trend Perspectives with Brad Ross