Thoughts on… The value of nostalgia

24Jul12

Us Brits, as a nation, are technologically and economically revolutionary, but socially and politically conservative.

But how does this manifest itself? An ideal example is the Mini. The original has been loved since the 60s for the freedom and design ideals it represented. Even now we have a huge emotional attachment to it as a concept, but hardly any of us actually bought one. It’s only now – since BMW took it under its wing – that we are flocking to own one, because we can play our iPods in it and it’s a lot harder to die in the new version that the old one.

We all long for little bits of the past, like going to Gran’s house for tea and all the rituals associated with that. We hanker after these things, and we know how to behave with the context of them. The social aspect of eating with family and friends, and the types of foods we want to eat at those occasions has become like part of our DNA. The merest mention of a fig roll or a jammy dodger gets everyone swooning.

So what’s that got to do with our brand? Much as the thought of an all-day-breakfast might seem attractive, do you really want to eat a full English at four o’clock in the afternoon? It’s just not quite right, and there’s even a sense of guilt attached to it.

We like the old timetables. Yes, we might look at our mobile phones to tell us what the time is, but our bodies know when it’s breakfast, lunch, tea and supper time, and what they really want to eat.

This is why our bakeries make Swiss rolls, not ‘roulades’, and why our chocolate chip cookies and ginger nuts look and taste like the ones you remember from your childhood – except maybe they’re the biggest ones you’ve ever seen. We want to make food that people recognise, because we all have a love affair with these nostalgic things and want to recognise the common thread within them.

Yes, we use iPads as our tills and to play the music in the bakeries. We like to think that we move with the times, but in this day and age the real value in anything lies in knowing what bits of our heritage to hang on to with both hands, and which bits can be discarded. Not everything (or everyone) that’s old is past it, or beyond improving.

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