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.




#Scandal, or how to use social media to bolster a show’s ratings

I’m sure many people reading this blog have seen, heard, or even tweeted about Scandal. The soapy political drama is now in its fifth season and, just like Grey’s Anatomy, will probably be on air for years to come.

But Scandal did not begin life with the popularity the show currently enjoys. The show premiered with a very short, seven-episode first season in April of 2012. Given the pedigree of Shonda Rhimes, the show did not debut with stellar ratings. Certainly, the ratings were not awful, but Grey’s Anatomy, it was not. At least, not at the moment.

ABC employed an aggressive social media marketing campaign, centered around Twitter. The cast of the show would interact with fans directly on Twitter through the hashtag #AskScandal. Using the hashtag, fans could ask the cast questions about the show and the cast would respond accordingly. This was a great way to bolster interest in the show, given that celebrities are not so easily reachable, usually.

That was hardly the extent of Scandal’s social media impact. ABC would create hashtags based around current events in the show every week. For example, a presidential assassination attempt brought #whoshotfitz (a clever riff on “Who Shot J.R.” from the 70s show “Dallas”). Fans of the show were dubbed #Gladiators. Thursdays became #ScandalThursdays. In essence, every Thursday became host to a slew of Scandal related trending topics on Twitter, and the show became the most-talked-about show on Twitter.

And with the increase in social media popularity came actual ratings increases too. The show rose in ratings over the course of its short debut season. And once the show returned in the fall of 2012 with Season 2, it had already become a pop culture phenomenon.

I believe the Scandal campaign is the strongest example of social media boosting a TV show’s popularity in actual ratings. As stated, Scandal started off somewhat weak given the creator’s pedigree. However, through fan support on social media, the show grew to surpass Grey’s Anatomy in ratings. There are no changes that I could think to make, because the campaign was clearly a massive success that resonated with the target audience and brought on new fans.

That said, who’s ready for #ScandalThursdays2016?