SJC BLOG


SJC Things With a Little Marketing From the 80s


Picture the SJC Marketing logo in classic Stephen King-style font. Give all the marketing specialists big hair and surround them with wood-paneled walls. Place a marketing strategy in front of each one with one, and only one action item: television advertising.

If you’ve been watching Stranger Things the last couple of years, you know the distinct look and feel of that decade, when every kid was wishing E.T. would come and visit and every adult was wishing their life looked a little more like WKRP. Sure, there were some questionable style choices, like huge shoulder pads that looked like you were prepping a good place for your pet parrot to perch. And why was everyone so concerned with showing off their socks?

Stranger Things isn’t a hit by accident. There are a couple of familiar marketing tools they’re using to lure in audiences:

Create Emotional Connections: Okay, so maybe you had great socks (in contrasting neon colors, even), but Stranger Things is demonstrating the intensity of nostalgia for that period in history. Is it because so many Gen Xers and even early Millennials associate it with uninterrupted Saturday mornings full of cartoons and those funny Claymation guys singing, “After these messages, we’ll be RIGHT back”? Or maybe it’s because of the momentary innocence of a generation that wasn’t old enough to remember Watergate or have a real sense of the impact of Vietnam, but hadn’t yet lived to see 9/11.

In addition to nostalgia, Stranger Things is also connecting with viewers through a compelling story and relatable characters. These are the same ways that companies attempt to connect with audiences. If your brand story isn’t exciting and gripping, you may not have developed it enough.

Invite a Little Mystery: Stranger Things isn’t a horror show. There’s just something enticing about the mysterious events surrounding the disappearance of Will Byers in the first episode and the sudden appearance of Eleven. As the viewer progresses through the episodes, the second season introduces new questions: What’s the story with Max and Billy? Why does Will still see the upside down?

You need to employ this technique with your marketing strategy. Don’t just roll out that product; build up anticipation and mystery before you unbox it on live video. Don’t just announce a live event; tease your audience with hints of exciting, upcoming announcements.

Be Real: In addition to releasing their hit show, the producers of Stranger Things also invited viewers to step behind the scenes with Beyond Stranger Things, an aftershow also available on Netflix with roundtable discussions of each episode.

Your target market doesn’t want to buy from a nameless, faceless company. Throw open your doors by doing live video tours of your facility, replying to comments on social media in a non-corporate, human way and embrace transparency in your company culture. Transparency turns a satisfied customer into a loyal advocate.

Now that you’ve seen how you can apply the marketing techniques of the show into your own strategy, let’s compare some of the marketing that was emerging in the 80’s with the tools you are now using, just to see how far things have come.

First it’s a good idea to simply acknowledge the three major elements that have created foundational changes in marketing:

  • The Internet. It’s hard to sum up in just a few words how pervasively the Internet changed marketing and every other aspect of life when it became available for consumer and business use in 1994.
  • Along with the introduction of the Internet came a way to measure and analyze consumer behaviors. Big Data was born.
  • Not only do you have the Internet, but it’s walking around in everyone’s back pocket.

Acknowledging the impact of these three forces allows for a better discussion of how marketing has changed in the past 30 (ahem, that’s 40!) years:

The ‘80s: The Yellow Pages

2019: SEO

Remember when you wanted to look up a business, and you would try to guess what category it might fall into in the Yellow Pages? Back then, you kept that giant book so handy that it was the easiest thing to grab for a double as a booster seat at the kitchen table. Now you toss it directly from your front porch into the recycle bin.

Today, companies invest in search engine optimization (SEO) to be sure that theirs is the first local listing when people look up their kind of business. SEO is a bit more complicated than paying for a giant ad in the Yellow Pages, but it helps you more closely understand who is searching for your business and what they’re looking for.

The ‘80’s: In-Person Networking

2019: Social Media Groups

You’ll never replace the value of networking in person, so keep attending live events to make connections with colleagues and potential clients and customers. The difference is that now you don’t have to wait for those events; you can connect with people via Facebook and LinkedIn.

The ‘80’s: Direct Mail Marketing

2019: Email Marketing

Email isn’t all that much of a spring chicken, but it’s much newer than direct mail. It’s much more cost-effective and yields better results. Think about it: you hardly ever see a coupon in the mail that you’re excited to see, but your emails are personalized, targeted and offer you discounts on things you’re already considering buying. What a deal!

The ‘80’s: Cold Calling

2019: Targeted, Segmented Markets

If you were tasked with growing revenue for your company in the 1980’s, your first task would be making cold call after cold call, trying to find a warm lead. Thankfully, your time can be better spent by targeting a specific set of people designated as most likely to want or need your product or service. Everyone who remembers cold calling just heaved a giant sigh of satisfaction.

If you’re feeling nostalgic for the ‘80’s, at least you can comfort yourself by remembering that you don’t have to make a cold call anytime soon or sift through the Yellow Pages to find a dog groomer (or would they be listed under Pet Care? Augh!).

At SJC Marketing, we’re all about staying on the cutting edge of the latest in effective marketing trends, but we love a good bit of nostalgia, especially if it comes in the form of entertainment. Come by and talk with us about where your business is headed and between new ideas, we can discuss the latest mysteries on Stranger Things. Contact us today.