How Nostalgia can Stifle Creativity in Marketing: An Opinion Piece

Nostalgia is a powerful emotion. In a mere moment, a strong wave of memories and feelings, brought on by a nostalgic moment, can transport any person to a different time and place in their lives. Nostalgia is capable of providing great joy to a person, reminding them of generally happier and simples eras in their lives. Childhood nostalgia is an especially potent case. That said, marketers can often prey upon nostalgia in lieu of using creativity to market a certain product.

Take the recently released revival series Fuller House. The original series Full House, beloved as it may have been, was hardly a bastion of “must see TV.” Relying heavily on after school special lessons, laugh tracks, and cheesy repetitive jokes with hugs at the end, the series was no critical darling. However, the show was tailored made to appeal to families with kids of all ages. And so a generation grew up on Full House, memorizing every snappy catchphrase (not a difficult task with the number of times every character’s catchphrase was repeated). The show ran for eight years, and its success ensured longevity via syndication, allowing the next generation to have the catchphrases ingrained in their brain (myself included).

And thus Fuller House arrived, the sequel series created by streaming giant Netflix. The show’s premise mirrors the original series, except instead of three men taking care of three girls, the genders have been swapped (plus an additional girl amongst the three boys). Original characters DJ Tanner and Stephanie Tanner, alongside fan favorite Kimmy Gibbler, move in together to help DJ raise her three sons after she becomes a widow. A shred of creativity in the premise is not to be found, nor is the house setting of the show very different (the crew recreated the set).  Laugh tracks, lots of hugs, guest appearances by the other cast members, and repeated catchphrases, both old and new, abound in the show’s thirteen episode first season.

Here is the show’s official trailer.

That trailer exemplifies the idea stated in the title of this blog, which is that appealing to nostalgia is an easy way for marketers to stitch together a marketing campaign devoid of any creative process. The original theme song is used again, except redone by modern pop star Carly Rae Jepsen (a very fitting artist choice). The trailer centers quite a bit on the entire cast from the original, even though the old cast makes sporadic appearances, at best. And, of course, there are catchphrases coming from everywhere and from everyone. While the trailer does show the basic set-up of the new show, the trailer could have focused far more on the stories of the ladies, now grown up, and their children. Instead, half (or more) of the trailer is focused on the old cast and tired catchphrases.

Here is Fuller House’s teaser trailer. This brief trailer shows that creativity and nostalgia can be fused in an effective marketing package. The trailer focuses on the original Full House set, while the accompanying song is a perfect track lyrically to appeal to nostalgic feelings. The trailer closes with the sounds of the familiar voices of the cast. This is a great shame, that this creative trailer was followed by a far less exemplary display.

However, the argument can be made that Fuller House was created as an easy-to-make nostalgic cash grab to begin with. Having watched the show, I found the series entertaining enough, though the fact that the show does little in original scripting cannot be denied (as many critics have pointed out, as well). Furthermore, nostalgia based marketing has gathered more and more popularity, as discussed in this article. Yet, this article proves exactly the point of this post. Nostalgia makes marketing easy, lacking any effort or creativity most of the time. Considering the advent of TV revivals and remakes, marketing to nostalgia is the effortless cop out method to avoid brainstorming sessions and skip right over to the check.