Now < then. Branding, The World Cup and why nostalgia works

Now < then. Branding, The World Cup and why nostalgia works

Posted By

The World Cup is almost upon us. I love the World Cup and, as a designer, I am always interested to see each tournament’s individual aesthetic, which slowly materialises in the build-up.

Looking back through the gallery of official World Cup posters through the ages, they absolutely scream a snapshot of cultural history – the 1980s designs look so typically 1980s; the 1990s so regrettably 1990s. So, imagine my surprise to see this year’s entry had been mistakenly replaced with a poster from the 1930s. Oh no, wait, that’s actually it.

World Cup posters are supposed to be evocative of a time and place. What’s the time? Half past 2018. The place? Mother Russia. Ok, don’t think about that.

However, maybe there’s more to it than that. Take a look at some of the team kits this year – Germany has rehashed its 1990 winning shirt; Spain has regurgitated its USA 94 jersey, Russia itself has resurrected its 1988 Olympic kit.  Or, the newly-released BBC title sequence, painstakingly manufactured from over 600 individually embroidered memories and put together with no-longer-necessary stop motion – it’s all about nostalgia at this World Cup.

But why? Because nostalgia is one hell of a drug. It’s how Don Draper got Kodak on board; it’s the reason everyone is going to the cinema to see Star Wars and Bladerunner; it’s why people pretend to like New Order. There is no stronger bond you can make between consumer and product than nostalgia.

In a completely unscientific test among a pool of subjects, whose numbers were too small to extrapolate anything resembling concrete analysis, I made an interesting discovery and peer reviewed it myself. When shown the logo evolution of different brands and asked to pick a favourite, participants were virtually guaranteed to pick the logo being used during their formative years. You could almost put money on what the choice would be based on the age of the person being asked.

I’m not going to get into the psychology of this, because I’m simply not qualified (also I don’t have time) but there’s obviously (probably) something in it. Many brands have recently reverted to retro or heritage inspired logos, tricking us into a false memory of a time when the Co-op was the heart and soul of every community, the manager at NatWest would have a cup of tea waiting for us, and paying a tenner to wait a fortnight for 24 Kodak prints was somehow just fine.



Is it because “now” is awful and “then” was great? Maybe “then” was awful too, we just forgot. Was it wall-to-wall sunshine, or did we play out for a month without even pay-phoning home and leaving the door unlocked, or simply just taking it off the hinges all together? Well, no of course not, “then” probably wasn’t even as good as “now”, but brands are increasingly looking to tap in to the delicate sucker-punch of nostalgia.

Nostalgia can set brands apart from start-ups or imitators who don’t have a history to pilfer. It can suggest the genuine craftsmanship of a time before we could rely on machines and computers to automate everything for us, or it just gives you the warm feeling of a time filled with so much promise and hope – like when you started reading this blog.

Whether you’re looking back or thinking ahead, get in touch and see how we can help bring out the best of your brand.

[email protected]