New research from YouGov and The7Stars investigates what triggers nostalgia and how it influences their buying behaviour.


Nostalgia has always been a powerful force in marketing and its potency doesn’t seem to be waning, according to a new study by YouGov and The7Stars. The research asked British consumers how they feel about the past and its impact on their attitudes in the present, including how they make purchase decisions.

Among its key findings are:

Nearly everyone gets nostalgic

Nine out of 10 people admit to thinking fondly about the past at least occasionally, with 47% saying they do so almost always or quite often. While people get slightly more likely to do it as they get older, more millennials say they reminisce about the past ‘almost always’ than older age groups do.

What’s more, a majority of people (55%) would choose to return to the past if it were possible to time travel, while only 28% would go to the future.

Those who enjoy being reminded of the past in ads are also more likely to say advertising helps them make purchase decisions.

There was no universal ‘golden age’

When people are asked how they feel about past decades, there is no consensus on which was the best. The 1990s are most fondly remembered, closely followed by the 80s, 70s and 60s, while the 50s and 2000s provoke fewer positive feelings.

Predictably, however, different age groups have different views, with each one being most likely to be nostalgic for the decades of their childhood and adolescence.

Music is the strongest source of nostaliga

For marketers looking to harness feelings of nostalgia, the most effective way to do so could be through music. It can also help connect with so-called ‘fauxstalgists’ – those who have warm feelings for a decade even if they are too young to remember it.

The 1960s conjures the strongest associations with music (38% of all mentions), particularly The Beatles. Culture and fashion associations are also strong in all decades, except the 2000s, when technology is at the forefront of people’s memories.

Nostalgia has seasonal triggers

While nostalgia isn’t just for Christmas, certain times of year such as holidays and the festive season are likely to make people think more fondly about the past. Brands such as Coca-Cola have successfully taken advantage of this in their advertising, with YouGov ad awareness data showing huge spikes for the brand when its ‘Holidays are coming’ Christmas ad appears on TV.

Download the whitepaper, ‘Nostalgia: Is it what it used to be?’, to find out:

  • Which brands have successfully tapped into nostalgia
  • The profile of the people most likely to be nostalgic and fauxstalgic
  • The associations that trigger nostalgia for each decade