Monday, 24 November 2014

RETRO TAKES ON TECHNO - A SIGN OF OUR TIMES

Globally the battle is between the past and the future.

In the Middle East and Asia, some Islamic values are at loggerheads with modernity. By the same token some traditional Anglicans find the idea of a female bishop bizarre. Someone said apparently:


You might as well ordain a pork pie as ordain a woman bishop

I rather like pork pies. But they are a little old fashioned and reminiscent of summers past.
As is the UKIP argument that the EU is sucking us dry, that immigrants are a drain on the economy and that fings aint wot they used to be.

Yet UKIP is doing well and we need to understand what their problem really is (not as some do hope it’ll go away). All traditionalists of whatever persuasion are saying in slightly different tones of voice “can’t we go back to things as they were?”

The trouble is that “the way things were” wasn’t really as good as it is today. Nonetheless stick with that nostalgic urge and try to empathise with it.

Jerusalem, green and pleasant lands, steam trains, pipe smoking, bosses and workers, Nottingham Forest, flat caps, Bill Hailey, Hancock, ‘O’ levels, Aberdeen Angus Steakhouses, Max Bygraves,  capital punishment, Watney’s Red, Jensen Interceptors, Woolworth, corner shops…..

The struggle between past and future is playing out in the marketing arena too. This is not just Farage v the Westminster Bubble. This is the High Street fighting back against the monolith out-of-town warehouses. Small shops trumping Tesco; big companies being attacked vociferously for being bad citizens; Jamie Oliver’s “Comfort Food” suggesting a retro-trend in diet (like the resurgence of pies); the revival of the fountain pen; an old fashioned, Midnight Mass, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen-type Christmas; the return of the epic story….has anyone reflected on the resemblance the long form TV series has to Victorian novels (which were also serialised, cliff hangers and all). This is Brave New World v Nostalgia.

There is nothing new with retro-marketing but there’s an increasing groundswell of opposition to new-fangled technology and, of course, Indian Call Centres and the “press 1 for accounts, 2 for complaints, 3 for other services” style of customer service. We increasingly call for personable, well- brought-up human beings not remote call centres.


Just as the UKIP, Tea Party, and Golden Dawn factions of this world tend to be vociferous minorities so too the retro-entrepreneurs are unlikely to usurp the Goliaths of the retail, energy, financial or fmcg communities. But they’ll bite their ankles very nastily and make them take notice.

This is a world where the entrance price for a troublemaking new brand is low. A website, a storytelling champion, a bit of news, a cacophony of tweets does it.  And one of the marketing strategies working well right now is based on authenticity and nostalgia.

So yes, the past, it seems, is alive and surprisingly well.

Technology moves on but traditionalism has a powerful voice too.