We all know customer purchase decisions ultimately hinge on an emotion…the rationale and logic for the purchase immediately follow. The customer then feels satisfied with their purchase steps.

One of the most powerful emotions in the human experience is nostalgia.

Nostalgia is that unshakeable affection for a “better” time gone by. The high school dance that was perfect. Or that summer you traveled across the country with friends. This sentimental longing rooted in nostalgia is so strong, it can overpower logic and rationale. The collectibles/antiques and fashion industries often harness the power of nostalgia to drive successful revenues.

Stranger Things is an 8-episode TV show which became the biggest Netflix summer hit no one saw coming. The plot follows the disappearance of a young boy in Indiana in 1983. His friends and family are drawn into his disappearance and discover a dark government conspiracy, shelter a quiet young girl with telekinetic powers, and discover what may or may not be a parallel world containing one very scary faceless monster. A big part of the show’s appeal is the way it beautifully curates and embodies prime 1980s pop culture.

Watching the show feels like you’ve stepped out of 2016 and into the pages of a Stephen King/Stephen Spielberg hybrid novella.

And audiences, particularly Gen Xers and early Millennials, are now demanding a second season. Netflix sated their hunger a bit by providing its first VR content using a Stranger Things scene.

Here are five reasons why Stranger Things works so well to create an event everyone keeps talking about, and how businesses can harness nostalgia in campaigns to reach a specific target audience.


Summer is the traditional time to release blockbuster movies. It also unearths our fond memories of road trips, adventures, summer camps, and exploring neighborhoods with our friends as a way to pass the season. Releasing Stranger Things during a month when people already felt the longing to relive their childhood summers answered a problem and a desire NO ONE ELSE was answering.

TIP: Think about how you can time your campaigns and your products/services to fit the need and desire of your audience.

A Short Story Arc

Great marketing is the kind of storytelling that drops you into the middle of the action, sweeps you up into the story, makes you care about what’s going on, and doesn’t overstay its welcome in your life. In ST, the first season (and second season, which was just announced), is divided into eight cliffhanger chapters (Season 2 will have nine), with each episode leaving the viewer satisfied while contributing to the foundations of a larger, mythical world.

TIP: Discuss the story of your campaign with your team. How long does the campaign really need to be? How will it flow and how can your team divide it into manageable “episodes” to be released to your audience in chunks? This also helps you leverage resources you already have.

Visual Collateral

The ST crew didn’t settle for crafting show posters and promotional images by lazily grabbing the best scenes from the show. Instead, they presented visual posters in the 1980s blockbuster summer movie format that were illustrated and have a great detailed adventure quality to them.

TIP: The takeaway? Don’t do what everyone else is doing visually just because it’s popular. (I’m looking at you, “artisanal desk” Instagram, with your white desks, black and white number posters, carefully arranged Macs/lattes/succulents.) Craft visuals that are true to your story and brand. Make it feel collectible. Invest in your designers!

Easter Eggs

From background settings to props to full scene homages (the van scene, you guys know what I’m talking about), ST gives Gen Xers and early Millennials moments to scream about by planting clues and not-so-secret pop culture references throughout the show. They’re essentially rewarding their target audience on another level. It’s an identity alignment.

TIP: Never underestimate the aspect of play in your campaigns. Lighten up. Just make it fun and plant items in your marketing collateral that is specifically for your loyal audience. Brand loyalty can deliver multiple ROI and gets people talking.

Branding For Other Senses

Aside from the incredible Stephen King-esque font of the title sequence, this show captures the experience of the 80s in look, feel, and sound. One of the most fan-loved aspects of Stranger Things is the music. The television score, created by Austin musicians Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, is an old-school analog synth journey of dark ambient transitions. In an interview with Rolling Stone, the duo cites 80’s groups such as Tangerine Dream among their influences.

TIP: Don’t forget about sound, smell, taste and touch as natural extensions of the marketing experience. If you can include music such as a playlist with your product or service, create it! Hand out tasty samples or textile goods. Analyze your pop-up shop scene to see what’s missing when it comes to the five senses. Do a scratch and sniff campaign. Whatever you want. Get creative with your branding but make sure it’s streamlined and makes sense.

We are huge fans of the show and look forward to the next season. In the meantime, if you’re curious about how to develop a transmedia storytelling campaign the utilizes these traits and builds a buzzworthy brand, let us know.