Stranger Things In Business: How To Use Nostalgia Marketing
There’s a very slightly sepia tone to the streets rolling across the screen as a bunch of kids with mullets and bowl cuts furiously cycle everywhere together on BMX bikes. From the high waisted jeans, scrunchies and Converse Chuck Taylors, to the walkie talkies, cassette players the size of a hardback, classic arcade games, and analog rotary phones, everything about Stranger Things screams 80s. And the people love it. Nostalgia marketing is taking the world by storm, and for good reason. The overwhelming success of Stranger Things is testament to the power of tapping into the emotional overwhelm of memory, and recalling a time when skateboards were the height of cool, and kids actually knew how to socialise in person without staring at a screen.
We all had Running Up That Road on repeat for a while last year, and we loved it.
One of the top marketing trends of 2024, nostalgia marketing is a great way to engage your audience on a visceral level, and stand out. Here’s everything you need to know about tapping into this retro trend…
Nostalgia marketing is a strategy that evokes memories and feelings from the past to create an emotional connection with the audience. It leverages the fondness and sentimentality that people have for earlier decades, tapping into the universal longing for the ‘good old days’. By incorporating elements, themes, and aesthetics from the past into their marketing campaigns, brands can resonate deeply with consumers on a personal level.
This approach works by bridging generations, connecting those who lived through the era with younger audiences curious about the past. Nostalgia marketing relies on the power of memory and emotion, turning them into powerful engagement tools. The strategy is not just about recreating past experiences but also about imbuing current products, services, and brand messaging with the warmth, comfort, and simplicity associated with bygone times.
The effectiveness of nostalgia marketing lies in its ability to provide a refuge from the fast-paced, constantly changing modern world. It offers consumers a sense of familiarity, comfort, and reliability in an era characterised by uncertainty, and complexity. In a time when technology is rapidly evolving, AI seems to be taking over, and we’re inundated with digital media, it’s easy to see the appeal of simpler times.
In practice, nostalgia marketing can take many forms, from retro packaging and throwback advertising campaigns to the revival of classic products or the integration of vintage brand elements into modern offerings. It’s about telling a story that transports the audience back in time, engaging them in a shared cultural memory while still offering something new and relevant.
Why It Works
The success of Stranger Things underscores the effectiveness of nostalgia marketing. By meticulously recreating the ambiance of the 1980s through visual cues, soundtracks, and cultural references, the show not only appeals to those who cherish their memories of the decade but also intrigues and attracts younger viewers. This dual appeal is a hallmark of well-executed nostalgia marketing, demonstrating its power to cross generational divides and tap into a collective sense of nostalgia.
The success of nostalgia marketing is not just about revisiting the past; it’s about leveraging the emotional resonance that comes with it. This strategy works for several compelling reasons:
Nostalgia marketing taps into the deep-seated emotions and memories that people hold dear. Much like archetypes tap into a collective consciousness and allow us to speak to audiences through an understanding of universally known characters, this emotional connection is powerful. It fosters a sense of warmth and comfort that can significantly influence purchasing decisions. When consumers feel an emotional tie to a brand, they are more likely to trust and remain loyal to it.
Identity And Belonging
Nostalgic elements in marketing often evoke a sense of identity and belonging among consumers. They remind people of a time when they felt connected to a community, whether it was through shared experiences, common interests, or cultural touchstones. This feeling of belonging is particularly appealing in today’s fragmented society, making consumers more inclined to engage with brands that bring them back to a perceived golden era.
Differentiation In A Saturated Market
In a market flooded with new products and technologies, nostalgia offers a unique way for brands to stand out. By invoking the past, companies can differentiate their products and services in a way that feels both fresh and familiar. This differentiation is crucial for capturing attention in an age of information overload.
Nostalgia marketing has the unique ability to appeal to multiple generations simultaneously. Older generations experience a direct connection to their past, while younger generations discover these elements as something novel and intriguing. This cross-generational appeal broadens the audience base, making it a highly effective strategy for reaching a wide range of consumers.
In an era where consumers are increasingly sceptical of marketing, nostalgia offers a perception of authenticity. Brands that successfully harness nostalgic elements are often seen as more genuine, appealing to consumers’ desire for authenticity in their interactions with companies. This perceived authenticity helps build trust and credibility.
Escape From Modern Stresses
Nostalgia provides an escape from the complexities and anxieties of modern life. By evoking a simpler time, nostalgia marketing offers a temporary retreat from the pressures of the contemporary world, appealing to consumers’ desire for relaxation and comfort.
Reinforcement Of Brand Heritage
For brands with a long history, nostalgia marketing reinforces their heritage and emphasises their enduring presence in the market. It highlights the brand’s journey, showcasing its evolution while staying true to its roots. This reinforcement not only celebrates the brand’s legacy but also strengthens consumer trust in its reliability and quality.
Stranger Things (which, fun fact, was itself inspired by older anime series Elfen Lied), tapped into something in the collective consciousness that proved to be so powerful, marketers have been scrabbling to recreate it. The effectiveness of nostalgia marketing lies in its ability to weave these elements together into a cohesive strategy. By engaging consumers on an emotional level, offering them a sense of identity and belonging, and providing an escape from modern-day challenges, brands can create lasting impressions that translate into loyalty and affection.
It’s All About The Emotional Punch
A crucial aspect of the efficacy of nostalgia marketing lies in its ability to consolidate the emotional impact through specific triggers. Stranger Things excels in this regard by tapping into a rich vein of nostalgia, not just through its visual and cultural references, but by evoking universal emotional experiences. The show masterfully leverages the sense of adventure and camaraderie that many people fondly remember from their youth. This is not merely about the aesthetics of the 1980s; it’s about recreating the feeling of embarking on adventures with friends, the thrill of discovery, and the bonds formed through shared experiences.
The adventures of the show’s young protagonists, as they navigate mysteries and confront challenges, resonate deeply with audiences. This connection is not just about recalling the past; it’s about re-experiencing the emotions associated with those formative adventures. Stranger Things brings to life the excitement, fear, and joy of childhood explorations, making viewers nostalgic for a time when friendship was about banding together to face the unknown.
Moreover, the show’s portrayal of camaraderie among its characters — supporting each other through thick and thin, the triumphs and failures, the scary and the exhilarating moments — mirrors the experiences that shape our understanding of friendship. This reflection of youthful solidarity and loyalty strikes a chord with audiences, reminding them of their own close-knit relationships from the past.
Stranger Things doesn’t just show characters living in the 1980s; it immerses viewers in the emotional landscape of their own pasts, making the nostalgia it evokes more profound and personal. By doing so, the show demonstrates the immense power of nostalgia marketing to not only bring back memories but to make us feel deeply connected to them, reigniting the joys and sorrows, the fears and hopes of our younger selves. This consolidation of emotional impact is what sets Stranger Things — and effective nostalgia marketing — apart, making it a resonant and powerful tool for engaging audiences on a deeply emotional level.
Examples Of Nostalgia Marketing At Work
Exploring recent successful nostalgia marketing campaigns reveals a wide array of strategies and creative executions that have captured the hearts of consumers. Here are a few standout examples from various industries:
Nintendo celebrated its legacy by releasing the Nintendo Switch commercial that narrated the story of two brothers bonding over Nintendo games throughout their lives, highlighting the emotional connection people have with the brand’s products. The effectiveness of this one comes from watching the sadness of one brother as the other grows up and loses interest in him, followed by that brother’s frustration that his kid brother has grown up to resent him for it, and the tear jerker moment when the two digitally reunite over a Nintendo Switch remembering all the happy moments they had playing Mario as kids.
The brand again captured fans’ hearts by releasing the NES Classic Mini, a compact version of its original gaming console, allowing older generations to relive and share their childhood gaming experiences with newer ones.
Spotify introduced a campaign featuring characters Falkor and Atreyu from The NeverEnding Story, leveraging the beloved 1984 fantasy film to connect with audiences’ cherished childhood memories. And yes, it’s the same song used in Stranger Things as the cute duet sung between Dustin and the girlfriend everyone thought was imaginary until they heard her crooning it through the radio.
The Australia Tourism Board cleverly disguised a tourism advertisement as a trailer for a fictional reboot of the ’80s film Crocodile Dundee, featuring Chris Hemsworth. This campaign tapped into the nostalgia for the original movies while showcasing Australia’s beautiful landscapes.
Coca-Cola regularly uses nostalgia in its marketing, especially during the holiday season, where it evokes feelings of warmth, togetherness, and joy through classic Christmas imagery. How many of us have the ‘it’s not Christmas until you’ve seen the Coca-Cola advert’ rule? I’ve even been and visited the Coca Cola truck, which regularly tours during the holiday season, and brings tons of visitors to shopping centres around the world; The Trafford Centre and other shopping malls are happy to pay to have the truck come to them because of the influx of shoppers it brings. In other words, this particular nostalgia campaign is so effective it doesn’t just market itself, it markets anything related to it (much as Stranger Things has triggered a massive resurgence in interest in Kate Bush, Dungeons and Dragons, Eggos and numerous other things that appear in the show!).
These campaigns illustrate the power of nostalgia marketing in bridging the gap between past and present, creating emotional connections, and engaging both old and new audiences. By carefully integrating nostalgic elements with modern marketing techniques, these brands have successfully rekindled fond memories while reinforcing their relevance and appeal in today’s market.
How To Use Nostalgia Marketing
Nostalgia marketing taps into the potent blend of memory and emotion that can drive consumer engagement and loyalty. Here’s how to effectively harness nostalgia marketing in your business, and since I started by discussing Stranger Things, let’s use that as the example…
1. Identify Your Audience’s Nostalgia Sweet Spot
Nostalgia marketing works best when it resonates with a specific generation or demographic. Stranger Things masterfully targets both those who lived through the 1980s and younger generations curious about the era. Understand the time periods or cultural moments that evoke fond memories in your target audience.
2. Blend the Old with the New
While nostalgia leans on the past, successful marketing requires a balance with the new and innovative. Stranger Things combines ’80s aesthetics with modern storytelling techniques and technology. Similarly, businesses can repackage classic products or themes with contemporary features or messaging that align with current trends and technologies.
3. Create an Immersive Experience
Nostalgia marketing is not just about the product; it’s about creating an experience that transports customers back in time. Stranger Things achieves this through its detailed attention to period-specific music, fashion, and technology. Businesses can create immersive experiences through themed events, packaging, or advertising campaigns that evoke a sense of time and place.
4. Leverage Social Media and Community
Stranger Things thrives not just on screen but in online communities and social media, where fans share memes, theories, and nostalgia. Engage your audience on social media platforms by encouraging them to share their own nostalgic stories or by creating content that sparks memories and discussions. This fosters a sense of community and belonging around your brand.
5. Partner with Nostalgic Brands
Collaborations can amplify the impact of nostalgia marketing. Stranger Things partnered with brands like Coca-Cola and Eggo, integrating them into the show’s storyline. Identify brands that share a nostalgic connection with your target audience and explore partnership opportunities for co-branded products, events, or campaigns.
6. Ensure Authenticity
Authenticity is crucial in nostalgia marketing. Your audience needs to feel that your brand genuinely appreciates and understands the era or theme you’re referencing. Stranger Things pays meticulous attention to the accuracy of its ’80s references, which enhances its credibility and appeal. Research and respect the nuances of the period you’re tapping into to ensure your efforts are well-received.
7. Monitor Trends and Feedback
Nostalgia is dynamic; what resonates today may change tomorrow. Stay attuned to cultural trends and feedback from your audience to adapt your strategies. Stranger Things evolves with its audience, introducing new characters and themes while maintaining its nostalgic core. Continuous engagement with your audience can provide insights into shifting preferences and opportunities for innovation.
When done right, nostalgia marketing can create powerful emotional connections and drive brand loyalty. By understanding your audience, blending the past with the present, creating immersive experiences, leveraging social media, partnering with iconic brands, maintaining authenticity, and staying responsive to trends, businesses can unlock the full potential of nostalgia marketing, just as Stranger Things has done in the entertainment world.
As we move further into 2024, nostalgia marketing continues to be a dominant trend, offering brands a unique way to engage with their audience and differentiate themselves in a crowded market. Whether through revisiting simpler times, evoking childhood memories, or bringing vintage aesthetics into the contemporary scene, nostalgia marketing is a testament to the enduring power of the past to influence and inspire the present and future.
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