July 29, 2022


Running Up That Strange Hill of Nostalgia Marketing

By: Brittany Hunter

If you’re anything like me, over the last couple of months you’ve found yourself belting out the lyrics to Kate Bush’s 1985 song, “Running Up That Hill” more than you might be comfortable admitting. 

According to the data, we’re not alone.

At the end of May, Netflix released season 4 of its popular series, Stranger Things, which prominently featured the 37-year-old track. 

Within one month of the show’s release, the song saw a streaming increase of 16,867%, earning the artist $2.3 million. The music charts were also impacted by this pop culture resurrection, as the song climbed its way to the #1 spot, beating out its 1985 peak at #3.

Two months removed from the Stranger Things release, and the song is still maintaining its popularity, dominating the TikTok scene and inspiring a new generation of musicians to record their own covers

The Good Ole’ Days

Aside from reinvigorating her career, Kate Bush’s legendary resurgence can teach us a great deal about the role nostalgia plays in the marketplace. 

Since it began, Stranger Things has been pulling at the heartstrings of Gen Xers and older Millennials, who both have fond recollections of the 1980s and are now settling down with families of their own. 

For them, the show brings back cherished memories of a carefree life free before the days of the internet and iPhones—a time when kids were free to play outside all day and ride their bikes all over town so long as they promised to be home by dinner. 

This is a world that no longer exists, even though it may feel like it was just yesterday.

There is a reason people of all ages yearn for what they call the “good old days.” Yet, ask a “boomer” and a Gen Xer when these better days occurred and they will be unable to reach a consensus on the timeline. That is because our hearts ache for our lost adolescence, whether that be the 1980s or the 1960s.

But unlike Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials currently make up a bulk of the economy. And with our hearts fixated on our own “good old days,” the market has delivered on giving us what we want. 

The Power of The Reboot

The power of nostalgia can be seen all around us. Just look at modern media.

The concept of “reboots” has taken over the film and television industry. 

Animated movies that were once a part of every Millennial’s life are now being remade for them to share with their own children. 

Shows like Fuller House had a five-season run because Millennials and Gen Xers were hungry for a taste of their youth. 

Peacock recently launched a remake of the classic 1980s/1990s series Saved By The Bell along with a reimagined reboot of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, giving Gen Xers and “elder” Millennials something to smile about as the reminisce. 

To be perfectly honest, none of these reboots are award-worthy shows. But they reminded us of the magic of our childhood, and we watched every episode in spite of its subpar writing and the acting, which left much to be desired.

Likewise, we sat through Disney’s remakes of Aladdin, Beauty and The Beast, and The Lion King because they helped satisfy our insatiable hunger for the past.

It’s not just the entertainment industry. 

Ask any 90s kid what their favorite snack was and there is a good chance they will tell you it was Dunkaroos. 

These kangaroo-shaped cookies came with delicious frosting for dipping and finding them in your lunch box instantly made you the envy of all the kids in the cafeteria. 

Sadly, they were taken off the market, until two years ago, when the snack had its victorious comeback and Millennials far and wide rejoiced.

Even Surge, the vile-tasting and caffeine-filled soda of the 90s, had a comeback a handful of years ago. 

There is a very good reason long-forgotten products keep reappearing in the marketplace. 

Research conducted on the nostalgia market found that “In 2012 alone, nostalgia was cited as a top trend in products such as toys, food and even Oscar-winning movies.” 

Researchers found it highly probable that “someone might be more likely to buy something when they are feeling nostalgic,” making it a useful marketing tool. 

While this is most certainly true, it is about a lot more than just marketing. 

In a world riddled with so much turmoil and change, our human psyches crave the familiarity of days gone by–and the market is giving that to us.

Kids These Days

The market’s love of 1980s and 1990s nostalgia has far-reaching impacts that are not exclusive to Millennials and Gen Xers alone. 

Pay a visit to any place where Gen Zers can be found and you might be shocked to see that they are wearing the same clothes you wore to school in the late 90s. From baggy jeans and flannel shirts, to Nike Air Force 1s and Dr. Martens, “kids these days” look a lot like kids in the “good old days.”

And even though they may have no idea that they are playing into the hands of the nostalgia market, this vintage vibe–yes, I just called Millennials vintage–is now being embraced by a younger generation. 

And I can’t blame them for wanting to join in on the fun.

I was born in 1985 and I had no idea who Kate Bush was until two months ago. 

Yet, I have listened to “Running Up That Hill” on repeat so many times, the neighbors in the apartments next to mine are surely at wits’ end.

But I love it. I love the 80s synth pop feel. I love the cheesy music video. I love it all. And I love that I can bond with the generation older than me over a song they once loved, and with which I recently fell in love. 

When it comes to the market, nostalgia as Mad Men’s Don Draper once said, “is delicate, but potent.”