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The Power of Nostalgia in Storytelling

July 4, 2023

On Saturday I was at the movies watching Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. What drew me there was nostalgia, and looking around I don’t think I was the only one!

Nostalgia, that wistful longing for the past, reminds us of simpler times. To quote Don Draper from Mad Men ‘Nostalgia – its delicate, but potent… It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone’.

When leaders embrace nostalgia in their storytelling, they create an authentic emotional bridge with their audience. Here are 3 tips for any story set in a previous decade.

  1. Use specific details from that time to create a vivid experience for your audience. This could include things like fashion, music, and popular culture references. For stories set in the 1980s think shoulder pads, big hair, and video games like Pac-Man.

  2. Consider the audience’s own memories from that time. You can do this through images or a question. For example, ‘Who remembers the 1990s? High waisted jeans, the Spice Girls (use images) and the internet made a sound (play the sound of dial up modem sound effect). This creates a sense of shared experience. You have recreated the moment for audience members who are too young to be familiar with the decade.

  3. Use nostalgia selectively: Overusing nostalgia can make a story feel outdated or irrelevant, so it’s important to strike a balance between nostalgia and modern relevance.

As we lean into the future, don’t underestimate the power of looking back, sometimes.

Let’s take a walk down nostalgia lane. What was your favourite sweet, toy, gadget from your childhood years? And the happy memory associated with it?

Photo Credit by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

Story Mastery

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