What Marketers Can Learn from Stranger Things

If you’ve been living under a rock this summer, you might have missed the phenomenon that is Stranger Things. If you haven’t watched it, I highly suggest you stop reading this right now and go watch it immediately. Like, now.

But if you’re, say, working at your desk and likely to piss off your boss by pulling up Netflix, here’s the low down: Stranger Things is a horror series dealing with the disappearance of a young boy, the appearance of a strange and powerful young girl, terrifying things that go bump in the night, and the struggles of those around town in dealing with all the craziness.

It’s wonderful storytelling sure to give you more than a couple nightmares, but it wasn’t just a compelling tale that propelled it into the stratosphere of fandom. It was the setting and subject matter. The show is a throwback to the 80’s in the most beautiful way, and I’m not just talking about the now infamous synth-riddled soundtrack. The adults in the room bring to mind memories of The Big Chill, while you can’t help but think of the famed Brat Pack while watching the hormonal and fumbling teens. And the kids — the undeniable superstars of the show — will have you thinking back fondly on movies like Stand By Me and Goonies.

Its own distinctive narrative appeal aside, this is just one of the latest in a recent string of highly successful nostalgia porn. From Mad Men to Downton Abbey, audiences continue to clamor for shows depicting times gone by. They’re not all successful — Pan Am is a good example of a flop — but by and large, folks like taking a fictional stroll down memory lane.

I know, I know. I can hear your thoughts from here.

What on earth does this have to do with my marketing!?!

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Everything, it turns out. We’ve written time and time again about the difficulty of coming up with great content for digital marketing efforts. But as the success of Stranger Things and other shows indicates, folks are already telling us what they want to hear.

So why not consider a “throwback” campaign? If you’re an established company, consider launching a campaign that features updated versions of your old logos and ads. You wouldn’t be the first. Professional sports teams and soda companies have been doing this for forever. There have even been product launches to this end.

You don’t need to go that far, but a throwback campaign can be incredibly engaging, especially if you’re asking your audience to engage. It can bring back the warm and fuzzies folks may feel about that period in time, and spur conversation around your brand, increasing recognition.

If you’re a newer brand — say, 15 years old or less — this might not be the best option. After all, you might still have all the same branding as when you launched (in which case, check out some of our branding design project categories to give yourself a refresh). That doesn’t mean you can’t partake in a little nostalgia porn yourself. Latch onto a show or a trend related to nostalgia, and pretend you were around back then with some custom graphic design meant to bring out those memories.

If you don’t want to go that far, look for ways to newsjack nostalgic moments. For instance, you can check out On This Day in History, and look for anniversaries that make sense to celebrate in the context of your business. If you’re a solar power product manufacturer, for instance, August 31st might be a great day to talk about William Cobb’s 1955 demonstration of the first ever solar powered car, with a comment about how far we’ve come. You won’t find something every day, but it can be a fun source for content.

Whether it’s watching Stranger Things or thinking back on your own brand’s history, nostalgia can be a fun thought exercise. How will YOU use it in your strategy?

Image Sources: Netflix and TreeHugger

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