The thin air of nostalgia marketing

What is Nostalgia Marketing & Why it works

Childhood Sundays were special. They didn’t start with the big steel ‘glass’ of Bournvita. Instead we were allowed a quarter cup of chai with a pack full of Parle G. The standard instruction across homes by all mausis was – ‘dip karne jitni chai’.
And just as most cherubic things, the beloved biscuit faded into a warm memory. Counting years, Parle G changed roles. From being the coveted treat that brightened faces to a staple in hostel rooms; it now languished as a lonesome forgotten pack in a kitchen cabinet or one picked up on a trek.

Yet the memory of dipping the biscuit in chai pulls a heartfelt chord. And perhaps that was what the brand intended to with its latest campaign – You Are My Parle-G. Pleasant ads with their young adults cherishing genuine relationships akin to Parle G. These are grown-ups who have crossed cities and leaped ladders. As one of the ads shows a young man over Facetimewho chanced upon Parle G in videsh, most of those to whom the ad talks will only stumble upon it in a blue moon.

What is Nostalgia Marketing

Who is their intended audience? What is biscuit consumption to the green tea sipping consumer? The class of children dunking Parle G has graduated to oat cookies and digestives. Will nostalgia alone help Parle G straddle the distance between the mass, and the class it’s yesteryear’s consumer has grown into?

Several brands have tried the happy memory trope, an instant connect humans feel when they chance upon old friends or even an old song. But success strides on what one does with nostalgia. Pulse made the good old outside-the-school-gate churan into a hard-boiled candy; a rage. Paper Boat is a pet example for childhood memories – old flavours in a new and easy avatar. Maggi held on to the most reliable straw in the 2015 ban storm – musing over memories; and flooding in a range of Indian and international flavours in healthier oats or atta varieties.

With ceaseless change, the good-old-days are always comforting. In the post-liberalization decades of modern design sensibilities, today Good Earth and India Circus have neatly recreated grandma’s saree motifs and bedsheet embroideries onto a plethora of surfaces

Holi and Real Estate

Of all the Indian festivals, Holi is the ultimate expression of trust in a community. It is the only festival where we surrender our selves and our bodies to fellow revellers, and accept forceful application of colour and water, while being grabbed or pelted.

This surrender requires an enormous amount of faith in the other – such that the completely voluntary letting go of inhibitions and acceptance of a physical onslaught is totally acceptable. Where being picked up by many others and thrown in a water pool or locking in playful hand-to-hand combat with a mere acquaintance is not a frightening prospect but a joyous abandonment of inhibitions.

This kind of trust eroded for many decades and for most the memory of Holi is from a distant past of our childhood, when times were simpler. Modern, fragmented, urban communities did not lend themselves to such trust – and most of us became wearier of celebrating Holi. Holi was to be feared, and the joy was gone. The rise of gated communities in urban India has suddenly brought the festival back.

With water tankers commissioned for rain showers, organisation that commissions food stalls and other activities, the ticketing of these events has led to a curating of guests. Communities are weaving a new fabric of trust again: People Like Us belong together and we are back again, celebrating with complete abandon.

While people in homes from Vikhroli to Malabar Hill, Patparganj to Greater Kailash stay indoors for Holi, gated communities across the country are celebrating Holi with a vengeance.

Groups are going door to door, dragging protesting residents out and dousing them with colour and drenching them with water – and everything is just fine.

Therein lies the real lure of these communities, which cost more per square foot and have high common area and maintenance charges. Holi is the ultimate symbol of the success of these new communities.
As published in Hindu Business Line on March 17,2016