“Alexa, play ‘Summer of 69’ by Bryan Adams,” says Kyra in a Peppa Pig-inspired British accent.
“Summer of 69 by Bryan Adams from your library, playing now on Amazon Music,” comes back as an instant reply.
The conversation between a four-year-old with an internet of things (IoT)-enabled device is a common phenomenon occurring in urban households, where technology is an integral part of the growing up journey for a generation termed as Gen-Alpha (born between 2012 and 2025). This generation can talk to devices and select audio or video content available on demand. What’s more, they don’t even have to type it out. The voice is what does the magic. With Amazon’s Echo Show, calling for a video will be as easy.
While technology enables on-demand service delivery, it’s the selection of the content this generation subscribes to that tells more about the influence of Gen X (or Gen Y depending on when you were born) on Gen-Alpha – the decision makers of the future.
Each time Summer of 69 is played, the unmistakable opening riff strums a chord deep within. There are memories attached beyond the six strings, with the mind flashing back to the times that were. Nostalgia kicks in and stays.
The fizz of nostalgia
Brand managers of today, perhaps from the same Gen X or Gen Y cohort, understand nostalgia and its timeless, priceless value to consumers. Is nostalgia that’s prompting Campa Cola to make a comeback?
Campa Cola, a darling of Gen X was forced out of the market with the re-entry of Coca Cola in 1993. While the brand continues to sell even today in a few tier-2 and tier-3 towns, to make a comeback on the national scene and compete with Thums Up, Coca Cola and Pepsi is an audacious move. Stepping up to competition will entail big costs on manufacturing, advertising and distribution. The question is, will its nostalgic value convert to revenue for Pure Drinks Group that owns the brand?
Another beverage brand, 7UP, introduced its ‘cool dude’ mascot of the 1990s, Fido Dido, to millennials. Its campaign #PutTheChill with Fido #TheOriginalChillar brought out the carefree attitude of the mascot, confused in today’s world where everyone is hooked on to a mobile phone, even when holidaying on a beach. Fido Dido gets them to put the selfie aside and live it up by ditching gadgets, albeit, briefly.
Cashing in on retro
Nostalgia has not been bottled up inside the aspirations of Campa Cola and 7UP alone. There are brands aplenty that are looking at wooing back Gen X or using their influence to sell to the millennials.
The most riveting story is of Saregama Caravaan. The retro-looking radio-like appearance is totally in sync with the melodies stored inside. In times of ‘Alexa’ and music apps like Spotify or Jio Saavn – here’s a physical box with 5000 pre-loaded songs of yesteryears. Over a million pieces have been sold in the last two years, compelling the company to launch a more portable and affordable Caravaan Mini followed by an iPod styled aux-connected Caravaan Go to appeal to the millennials.
The recent comeback of the once iconic Jawa motorcycles is again throttling in the perhaps unfulfilled aspirations of Gen X when the brand rode out its last delivery in the 1990s. Its unmistakable roar could be heard hundreds of meters away and the brand has kept that sound alive even in its newer model – Jawa 42, as well as the Jawa Classic. Classic Legends that owns the brand is competing with Royal Enfield, priced upwards of 1.5 lakh rupees and sporting a 300 CC engine. Its order book is full till September 2019 and the company has closed its online booking for now, urging potential (and nostalgic) customers to visit its showrooms to test ride.
As Jawa made its comeback, Lambretta isn’t far behind. The retro scooter brand is said to launch two variants sporting the retro look later this year.
The fascination for retro is also evident in technology brands. In 2017, Nokia decided to give a new lease of life its Nokia 3310 that made the brand synonymous for mobility in the early 2000s when the telecom sector was booming. That the model didn’t evolve in features even in 2017 by continuing to offer only calls, text and the occasional ‘snake’ game could have led to the model not selling in as many numbers, but the instant brand connect with the Gen X cohort was spot on.
Passing the legacy and learning afresh
Brands will launch, relaunch and kill products based on economic returns to the investment. It’s the salience that will preserve the shelf life sometimes beyond generations. While Gen X could continue to influence consumption patterns for themselves as for Gen-Alpha, the reverse influence will define the products of the future where technology is the cornerstone of innovation. This reverse influence will be as real for business, as for art and culture.
Until then, “Alexa, play Baby Shark by Pinkfong.”
Kartik Malhotra is Senior Executive Producer and Editor, Special Projects, at Network 18. He is an alumnus of IIM Lucknow and, when not behind the camera, indulges in armchair analysis of strategy and technology.