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A semiotic analysis of nostalgia as a connection to the past

Aurélie Kessous (IAE Business School, Paul Cezanne University, Aix‐en‐Provence, France)
Elyette Roux (IAE Business School, Paul Cezanne University, Aix‐en‐Provence, France)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 4 April 2008




Based on Greimas' contributions in 2002 and on qualitative research, this paper aims to focus on a semiotic analysis of the meaning of nostalgia related to products and brands.


This paper involves a two‐stage interview process. Informants were interviewed first in T1 (July‐August 2005) about products and brands connected to nostalgic feelings. They were re‐interviewed a year after in T2 (June‐July 2006). Pictures of products and brands evoked in T1 were shown and informants where asked what came to mind when they where exposed to such material. Based on the transcription of the interviews, a three‐step content analysis was performed: a first reading of the corpus made it possible to identify the two dimensions of time that structure the informant's discourse: “continuity” and “discontinuity”. Then a lexical analysis of the vocabulary associated with nostalgic experience was computed. Finally, a semiotic analysis of the texts was performed.


The two opposing dimensions of a semiotic square, “continuity” versus “discontinuity” provide a structure for understanding the most important features of nostalgia: “long‐standing nostalgia” (continuity) and “first‐time nostalgia” (discontinuity). This provides a typology of four nostalgic moments: everyday past, uniqueness, tradition and transition which are linked to specific brands and objects.

Research limitations/implications

Since this typology is qualitative, it must be confirmed on a larger scale in order to be implemented by managers in the marketing decision‐making process.


These four distinct moments enable a researcher to propose a typology of brands, products or objects that when considered in association, can provide a better understanding of emotional attachment.



Kessous, A. and Roux, E. (2008), "A semiotic analysis of nostalgia as a connection to the past", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 192-212.



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Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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