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How Gen Z & Millennials Drive Nostalgia on Social Media Research from GWI


How Gen Z & Millennials Drive Nostalgia on Social Media: Research from GWI

Whether it’s an 80’s song going viral on TikTok or Instagram memes about an old television series, nostalgia is everywhere on social media. New research from GWI shows that Gen Z and Millennials are the main drivers of nostalgia in the media. Keep reading to learn more about why the younger generations are drawn to the past and best practices for how to incorporate nostalgia in content.

Nostalgia is everywhere on today’s top social media platforms. According to recent research from GWI, the younger generations are the strongest drivers of nostalgia in the media and seek it out as an escape from the hectic environment of today. When it comes to using nostalgia in marketing campaigns, brands and influencers should use it mindfully and understand why their audience craves the past in the first place. 

In How Gen Z & Millennials Drive Nostalgia on Social Media, GWI dives into the research behind the uptick in nostalgia and provides insights for marketers. Here, NetInfluecer covers the key takeaways and what they mean for influencer marketing.

Who Conducted the Survey?

GWI is the “leading audience targeting company for the global marketing industry.” Their proprietary platform conducts extensive audience research so businesses can learn how their target customer thinks, acts, and feels. Through the GWI platform, marketers gain access to over 200,000 unique profiling points. GWI’s data is used by their marketing clients to develop new campaigns and product offerings, search for new partnership opportunities, and more.

GWI was founded in 2009 by Tom Smith, who is still the organization’s CEO. Today, the company is headquartered in London, England. GWI also has offices in New York, Prague, Athens, and Singapore and currently has over 500 employees.

Survey Methodology

The data in the survey is from the GWI Zeitgeist January 2023 report. GWI’s Zeitgeist is an international dataset featuring global markets and the series features a new set of topics each month. GWI Zeitgeist collects data on individuals between the ages of 16 and 64 and responses are weighted for age and gender.

Each of the charts featured below includes the specific data subset from which the chart was compiled. Users were surveyed in 12 different markets and all reported feeling nostalgic about media in some form. 

Three Key Takeaways

1. Gen Z is the most nostalgic generation and 15% said they’d rather think about the past instead of the future. Gen Z and millennials drive nostalgia the most, with 50% of Gen Z feeling nostalgic for types of media, followed by 47% of millennials.

2. According to the data, movies were the number one trigger of nostalgia (71% of respondents). Music came in second at 64%, followed by television shows at 60%.

3. The survey showed 58% of respondents enjoy screen adaptations of past media, like when a book or video game is adapted to a film or show. Many also reported enjoying revivals of past media, like a reboot of an old TV series (56%). However, 56% said there are too many “unoriginal” television shows and movies.

What Does This Mean for Influencer Marketing?

The first takeaway reveals that the youngest generation craves nostalgia the most. The data also revealed that Gen Z is particularly nostalgic for the 1990s, a decade in which most of them weren’t born or were too young to remember. According to GWI, the 90s are viewed by Gen Z as a carefree time, which is a welcome contrast to our current rather turbulent global landscape. Gen Z is also inspired by 90s fashion and many of the Y2K trends of the past have resurfaced and regained significant popularity.

GWI also encourages brands to understand what drives their target market towards nostalgia and why they “crave a return to the past.” Influencer marketers with a large Gen Z audience should consider tapping into the underlying reasons for nostalgia’s popularity and emphasize the more positive aspects of a particular era. 

How Gen Z & Millennials Drive Nostalgia on Social Media: Research from GWI

The second takeaway covers which forms of media spark the most nostalgia. Movies, TV, and music were the top three forms, followed by photographs, books and magazines, video games, advertisements, and radio. GWI’s article mentions several recent remakes of past movies and television shows along with statistics on their success. For example, the Netflix show Stranger Things paid homage to the 1980s and had a total of over seven billion streamed minutes between May 30th and June 5th, 2022

As was mentioned in the first takeaway, people love seeing content that evokes feelings of the past, as they tend to use it as an escape from a chaotic present. For influencer marketers, creating content around nostalgic movies, TV, and music continues to be a smart choice. On Instagram and TikTok, many songs from the past are used in the background of Reels and videos, which sometimes cause the song to experience a revival on the charts. Voiceover videos also continue to trend and pulling famous lines from past movies and hit shows could increase your chances of going viral.

How Gen Z & Millennials Drive Nostalgia on Social Media: Research from GWI

The third takeaway shows consumers enjoy nostalgia in the form of screen adaptations and revivals of past media. However, the data also shows people may be experiencing a bit of nostalgia fatigue and believe there are too many remakes and sequels. GWI suggests brands should be thoughtful when using nostalgia in their campaigns, because it’s only effective when it’s done right. The report mentions the recent film Top Gun: Maverick’s success because it “involved relevant nods to its original, without being a slave to it.”

GWI’s data also shows that 53% of respondents say they feel happy when they engage with media from the past and 40% saying they feel comforted. Influencers looking to use nostalgia in their content should focus on the more lighthearted aspects of a particular era. 

How Gen Z & Millennials Drive Nostalgia on Social Media: Research from GWI

In summary, GWI’s analysis of how the generations drive nostalgia contains several useful insights for both brands and influencer marketers. Many people, especially the younger generations, view nostalgic content as a break from an uncertain present. In order for nostalgia to be effective, marketers should seek to understand what drives their audience to the past in the first place. GWI recommends staying focused on the more forward-thinking, inclusive aspects of the past when incorporating nostalgia in content.

Link to the Report

How Are Gen Z and Millennials Driving Nostalgia can be found on GWI’s website, along with additional insights and research reports on the latest digital marketing trends.

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David Adler is an entrepreneur and freelance blog post writer who enjoys writing about business, entrepreneurship, travel and the influencer marketing space.

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