“Newstalgia” and How Your Audience Is Different in 2017

The forces of technology, globalization, and social change have disrupted consumers’ lives on every conceivable level. Sure, most people have a smartphone in their pocket and GPS directing them everywhere, but they also have economic insecurity, social ambiguity, political divisiveness, and pretty much full-on information overload. The forces of change aren’t slowing down anytime soon, but great marketers know that is always the case. So here are some of the opportunities for brands to resonate in today’s post-2016-was-the-year-from-hell world.

First, what hasn’t changed: our shared values

Despite all the Twitter wars, red-faced CNN punditry, and clash of cultures and generations, research from our partner CEB Iconoculture shows that humanity is still motivated by the same things.(1) In 2017, the top ten values for US consumers are loyalty, equality, honesty, responsibility, success, authenticity, justice, courtesy, family, and conscience. Nine out of those ten values have been on the list every year for the last seven years. Family is the only new one, perhaps due to Millennials entering the parenting life stage in force. So if your marketing appeals to any of these values, you’re solid.

Reduce the noise and avoid the shaming.

The volume and intensity of news/noise in 2016 had many people seeking respite by disconnecting, turning off notifications, unfollowing friends, and altogether blocking accounts. For brands and marketers, this growing group of consumers will become harder to find. So when these consumers are found, the tone of communication should be empathetic and non-shaming, with balanced messaging that adds value, not just more noise.(2) The Starbucks “Upstanders” campaign, which highlights individuals helping their communities, received positive press and engagement. The Land O’Lakes “Delete to Feed” campaign, where the company provided a meal to someone in need for every previously posted picture of food that a user deleted, appealed to consumers struggling with the volume of content but met with backlash because consumers felt shamed by their food posts.

The new nostalgia: “newstalgia”

Unlike traditional nostalgia content that idealizes the past for escapism, “newstalgia” uses the past as a platform for probing the unresolved societal issues of today.(3) Most consumers appreciate accurate and relevant portrayals of the past and see them as a helpful device for discussing hot-button issues around race, gender, income inequality, and social mobility that continue in society. Some examples of successful newstalgia include the FX Networks series The People v. O.J. Simpson that tackled race relations, Amazon Video’s Good Girls Revolt about gender dynamics, FX’s The Americans about fraught global politics, and the British drama series Downton Abbey dealing with economic inequality. Creating content marketing with this approach or advertising near newstalgia content is a smart way to take advantage of this trend.

There is a lot more where this came from, but this post is fast approaching information overload status. Don’t disconnect. Reach out to me or anyone on the GLG strategy team, and we’d be happy to share more about the best ways to connect with consumers in the post-2016 world.

 

1. “US Top Trends 2017: Value Backdrop,” CEB Iconoculture Consumer Insights Topic, December 8, 2016.

2. “Noise Reduction,” CEB Iconoculture Consumer Insights Slideshow, December 8, 2016.

3. “Newstalgia,” CEB Iconoculture Consumer Insights Slideshow, December 8, 2016.

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