If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t seen Stranger Things yet, then this is all you need to know. The drama-mystery show revived a plethora of nostalgic memories, especially of 80s movies such as E.T. and Goonies, but with fantastically fresh storytelling that instantly captivated millions of viewers and turned the series into an overnight cult classic.

The Netflix original series lays the nostalgia factor on thick with 80s fashion and hairstyles, and harkens memories of a time when kids actually went outside and rode bikes. Yet despite these nostalgic, familiar feelings, the series still feels original — which is why so many of us couldn’t stop watching.


According to Merriam-Webster, nostalgia is “pleasure and sadness that is caused by remembering something from the past and wishing you could experience it again.” This feeling of nostalgia can reduce stress, increase feelings of connectedness — and even influence us to make a purchase.

Brands seeking fresh ideas for a marketing campaign, listen up. There’s a lot we can take away from the wild success of Stranger Things and the nostalgic, or “throwback,” products and entertainment that have emerged over the past few years. As one study conducted by the Journal of Consumer Research discovered, people actually spend more money when they are feeling nostalgic. Because of this, there has been an increasingly popular trend among smart brands to engage in what is now called nostalgia marketing.

Here’s what you need to know about this type of emotional marketing, and how to use it to engage the ever-elusive Millennial audience.

Nostalgia marketing works incredibly well with Millennials.

When we have feelings for something or care deeply about something, we are much more likely to act. Simply put, reliving positive memories from the past makes us feel good. Brands who can create these “blast from the past” feelings with their marketing have a greater chance of reaching consumers on an emotional level, especially Millennials.

The Millennial generation now represents a quarter of the U.S. population. This group also has an annual buying power of more than $200 billion, yet is still one of the most challenging generations for marketers to figure out. Not only do their purchasing behaviors radically differ from those of older generations, but they also have completely different preferences when it comes to communicating and interacting with brands. So how are brands still managing to get in front of Millennials consumers? The answer: nostalgia.


The technological advancements we’ve experienced since the 80s are nothing short of incredible. The Millennial generation had the opportunity to experience this revolution in full and witness everything from social media to virtual reality becoming a standard part of our everyday lives. And because of these changes in the world, Millennials love to reminisce and recall how things “used to be.” Millennials raised with the Internet have had full access to pop culture artifacts from before they were born, and many feel nostalgic about these things as though they actually experienced them.

This is why nostalgia marketing is so effective on this group. When brands add a dose of nostalgia to their campaigns, Millennials instantly get excited and are more likely to discuss, share, and even purchase a product because of this feeling.

What brands need for a successful nostalgia campaign


The Coca-Cola Company re-released its citrus soda ‘Surge’ on Amazon in September 2015 saying, “Fans thirsty for a taste of ‘90s nostalgia can rejoice in the news that Surge is back after a 12-year hiatus.”

Nostalgia marketing is nothing new for some of today’s biggest brands. Soda companies have routinely introduced cans featuring retro branding and throwback logos. Professional sports teams have been producing retro-influenced memorabilia and attire for years. So how can your brand take part in nostalgic marketing without the budget of Coca-Cola or the NFL?

The fact of the matter is nostalgia marketing success comes from deploying the right campaign at the right time. It’s important for brands to keep a finger on the pulse of modern culture, pay attention to trends and listen to what people are talking about, and then plug nostalgia into a fresh new campaign. As Lauren Friedman stated in this Forbes article, “Brands who rush into a “throwback” campaign without putting the modern world into context may be seen as out of touch — or worse, irrelevant.”

Here are just a few other ways to create a successful nostalgic marketing campaign:

1. Channel nostalgia through social media.

Stranger Things struck gold with little to no marketing. That’s because the show used social marketing tactics, such as partnering with online broadcasting service Twitch, and social networks to spread the word.

2. Pay very close attention to details.

It’s okay to mix modern elements into your nostalgic campaign, just make sure you pay close attention to the details that matter so consumers will create the correct memory in their minds. You don’t want them thinking you’re bringing back the 90s when your goal was the 80s — authenticity is key. The title sequence of Stranger Things captivated us because it was captured in the same fashion as titles from the 80s used to be captured. The font choice is also distinctly 80s and shows how much attention was paid to making the show feel authentic.

3. Mix memories with new technologies.


Stranger Things also released a YouTube video that let viewers experience the show in virtual reality / 360 degrees. The video has racked up over 1 million views so far.

The incredible success of Pokémon Go is another example of how brands can successfully introduce new products by incorporating nostalgic elements. The game’s developer, Niantic, didn’t need to spend lots of money on advertisements to generate its large user base. It had something much more powerful in its pocket to capture Millennials: the right mix of nostalgia combined with a new technology: virtual reality.

4. The more creative and interactive, the better.

This Stranger Things Lightbulb Message Maker enables fans to customize their own lightbulb messages. There is also a text creator that allows you to put text in a Stranger Things font. This creative blend of old and new can be found just about everywhere in today’s digital world. For example, apps such as Instagram allow us to express our creativity in a nostalgic way. New controllers plug into our smartphones allowing us to play retro video games. Thinking about how your brand can combine nostalgia with interactivity can go a long way in boosting engagement with your product or service.

In a way, nostalgia marketing can be seen as a natural extension of authenticity marketing. The popularity of #TBT and Buzzfeed’s 90s listicles are all proof that consumers, especially Millennials, are extremely fond of reminiscing the past and looking back on what was popular during childhood. Some things, like shoulder pads and perms, may be better left in the past, but nostalgia marketing can help brands build authenticity and perhaps most importantly: make consumers feel good. And isn’t that the definition of a winning marketing strategy?

This article was originally published on Social Media Today.