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- 24 Feb 2011
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Affluent Consumers Look to the Past for New Luxury


Karen Weiner Escalera, president & chief strategist at KWE group, discusses the renaissance of retro for the affluent consumer, in the wake of the global financial crisis.

In terms of the economy, we’re all waiting for the other shoe to drop. Whether they’ve been actually battered or it’s merely self-inflicted, the affluent are weary. Such uncertain times mean at least temporary comfort can be found in looking back to fond memories of happy days-gone-by. Not only will “nostalgia marketing” drive trends in 2011, but for years to come until the deep effects of global recession subside.

Vintage consumption is flourishing online and off. Call it the renaissance of retro, from once-passé décor aesthetics, to traditional barbershops for classic haircuts, to old fashioned sweets appealing to our inner child. Even the colors of yesteryear are back. Honeysuckle pink, specifically Pantone 18-2120 TCX, is the new-crowned hue of 2011. It recalls the lipstick our mothers wore, or maybe the tile in our ‘50s bathrooms. Crops of new restaurants pay homage to American culinary classics.

Vintage spirits and forgotten cocktails are quaffed anew. In a nod to tradition and technology, AMC’s Mad Men Cocktail Culture smart phone app helps users master the forgotten art of cocktail mixing. And in a campaign throwback, Mr. Peanut, the iconic Planters Peanuts character, has begun to talk (the voice of Robert Downey Jr.) for the first time in the 94 years since he was first introduced with the hope of “charming” consumers.

 In terms of the economy, we’re all waiting for the other shoe to drop. Whether they’ve been actually battered or it’s merely self-inflicted, the affluent are weary. 

Tapping revived interest in forgotten fruits, veggies and animal breeds, “heirloom” businesses offer rare vintage produce. Lost Nation Orchard in New Hampshire offers orchard shares of Russian apples that arrived in the U.S. back in the 19th century. Chatham Marketplace, a food co-op in North Carolina, sells vintage varieties labeled with histories of their origins. Meanwhile, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello holds an annual Heritage Harvest Festival, bringing back old-fashioned gardening, local food and preservation of heritage plants.

Nostalgic travelers are ringing cash registers where happy memories were once made. Beset with budget cuts, the U.S. National Park Service hopes to inspire nostalgia with historic park brochures on its website, including a vintage 1913 one from Crater Lake National Park. Officials hope to evoke childhood memories of family vacations long past, when mom and dad might “see the USA in a Chevrolet” on a cross-country jaunt when gas was a quarter a gallon.

Train travel is also hot, evidenced by the number of new luxury trains launched in the past year. Not only does it seem green, it’s a comfortable way to maximize leisure time, enabling distance travel, minus packing, flying or driving. India is fast emerging as a favored Southeast Asian tourist magnet, at least in part due to its advanced rail infrastructure. The Maharajas’ Express, India’s first state-of-the-art cross-country train, offers guests luxury, crossed with exotic excursions. Princely and Royal India journeys take guests from Mumbai to Delhi and travels through the heart of regal India, including stops in Vadodara, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Jaipur, Ranthambore and Agra.

This article has been published courtesy of KWE Group where it first appeared here under the headline ‘Nostalgia Marketing: The “New Retro”’.


For nearly 30 years, first in New York City and now in Miami, Karen Weiner Escalera and her firm’s KWE Group have been among the USA’s leading strategic marketing and public relations experts in luxury travel, hospitality and real estate.

Creator of the KWEst PROcess for strategic market positioning and product development, Karen has worked for brand leaders in all segments of the industry. She is a frequent speaker on travel trends and is editor of an internationally syndicated luxury travel and lifestyle trends newsletter and blog.